The Benefits of Divorce Mediation

Does divorce mediation work? There are many benefits to divorce mediation compared to adversarial divorce. Couples who use divorce mediation are likely to save money and be more satisfied with the outcome. So divorce mediation works very well. Divorce mediators who actually help their clients reach agreement are more active in structuring the mediation process and maintain control of it. They focus more on problem solving than on opposing positions. They discuss options and solutions rather than history and facts.

In general, divorce mediation produces agreement in 60 to 80 percent of cases. This is true whether the divorce mediation is court ordered or voluntary.  It also applies whether the couple had a history of domestic violence or intense marital conflict.

Settlement rates of more than 85 percent suggest a more coercive style of divorce mediation. This is particularly likely to be a factor if settlement rates are the only criterion for evaluating the success of divorce mediation. Single-issue mediation has a lower settlement rate than multiple issue divorce mediation.

Couples who mediate the issues of their divorce are significantly more likely to be satisfied with the outcome of their divorce when compared with couples who endured an adversarial divorce.  According to one study, 70 percent of divorce mediation participants were very satisfied, compared to only 46 percent of adversarial couples.

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Results vary across studies of divorce mediation.  For several issues, such as the warmth and  caring of the divorce mediator,  sufficiency of information, and satisfaction with child support, there were no major differences between the perceptions of mediating and adversarial couples.

On most issues, however, such as the skill level of the divorce mediator, the creativity of the mediator, the ability of the divorce mediator to help clients reduce anger, the mediator’s success avoiding imposing his or her viewpoint on the client, impact on the spousal relationship, satisfaction with the property settlement, satisfaction with alimony arrangements, satisfaction with parenting schedules, and understanding children’s needs and issues, mediating couples reported significantly higher levels of satisfaction than adversarial couples.

The difference in satisfaction with divorce mediation between men and women is not large. That’s in contrast to adversarial divorce, where men are usually much more dissatisfied than women with the process and results. Women in mediation also express greater satisfaction with both process and outcomes than do their litigation counterparts.

Mediated agreements tend to cover more ground than settlements reached either voluntarily or involuntarily in adversarial court. Mediation usually mean more joint legal custody compared to court divorce process, but not necessarily result in different parenting schedules.  There is no difference in the amount of child support payments and mediating fathers are more likely to agree to extras for their children and are more likely assist with college expenses.

Researchers agree that mediation does not seem to have any effect on the psychological adjustment of either divorcing couples or their children, whether the mediation is custody only or comprehensive. Mediating couples tend to resolve the issues in their divorce in much less time than that taken by couples in antagonistic divorce. They also save a lot of money.   In one study, couples in the litigation sample reported spending more than twice as much for their divorces than those in the divorce mediation .

Research shows better compliance with mediated agreements, when compared to agreements reached through litigation. This includes parenting schedules, payment of child support, alimony and division of property.  Re-mitigation rates are low among divorce mediation couples and are lower than with adversarial couples.

Divorce Mediation is an alternative to the adversarial system for couples desiring to make their own decisions about the future. Lydia S. Glass is a licensed clinical psychologist and licensed Marriage and divorce mediator in Pasadena and Los Angeles, California.
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