Even though we mediators love to tout the benefits of using divorce mediation over other divorce processes (especially traditional, court-based divorce) it is not the most popular process. Mediation just isn’t the number one choice (yet) despite the facts that: it usually costs less, is faster and more efficient, and is a gentler and more peaceful process. It also offers spouses the greatest degree of control over their own decision making (with regard to asset division, issues surrounding the children, what happens to the house, etc.) and it has an added benefit in that agreements reached through mediation are more likely to be adhered to than those obtained through other processes. So why isn’t mediation the most popular divorce process? Here are five possible reasons why not (though NONE of these is actually a good enough reason not to use mediation).
1). In the mediation room, spouses, who may not have agreed on a single thing in many months, years, or even decades, are expected to talk to and listen to each other (with the mediator’s help, of course) and even work to understand what the other needs and thinks is important. This can be a pretty tall order particularly when considering that you have to do this work with someone whom you may feel has mislead, mistreated, or otherwise deeply disappointed you.
2). For some soon-to-be-exes, the sight, sound, or even smell of their spouse (whom they once loved) is now perceived as offensive and hard to tolerate. While the thought of even sitting in a room together may seem impossible, mediators can help clients to do so successfully.
3). Clients are expected to be open and honest on some pretty personal stuff, i.e.- fully sharing information on what each earns, owns, owes, and truly wants or values. Again, for couples who may not have spoken much or at all for some time, this can be a real challenge.
4). Each spouse must engage fully in the process and do productive work, dare I say, even ‘partner’ with their soon-to-be-ex in working together to formulate ‘good enough’ agreements that each can live with. For those who have become entrenched in a cycle of conflict and disagreement, working together does take effort and might seem impossible, but it can be done. Successfully doing so can even be beneficial beyond the divorce process, particularly for those who will be co-parenting and thus continuing to have ongoing contact with each other..
5). Mediators are ‘neutral’ and won’t give advice or declare one of you to be ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. Some clients can’t resist efforts to ‘win over’ a divorce professional and feel morally superior to their soon-to-be-ex partner. Mediators are trained to resist this and remain neutral, even under pressure.
In short, maybe mediation isn’t the most popular process as it asks that divorcing clients, with the mediator’s help, can sit together, talk, listen, and work to understand each other despite the unpleasantness and difficulty of doing so. Clients are expected to be open and honest and respectful which is not an easy task considering all of the emotions (disappointment, worry, anger, etc.) that clients usually bring with them. Nonetheless, for those who wish to have maximum control over their divorce decision making and engage in an efficient and cost-effective process, mediation can be the best process to use.
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