Popular images of divorce involve bitter conflicts hashed out in courtrooms over everything from child custody to who gets the family car. However, not all divorces resolve this way. Some couples want to avoid a contested divorce and work things out in a setting outside of court. When they do, they may take their divorce before a mediator who will help them reach an amicable solution.
FindLaw explains that divorce mediators are neutral third parties. They are not judges or officials with power to impose decisions on a couple. Instead, they are individuals trained to assist couples to resolve their disagreements. They may or may not be attorneys. Regardless, they understand their role is not to show favoritism toward one spouse or the other, but rather to facilitate talks between them.
During mediation, a mediator will meet with the couple multiple times. During the first meeting, the mediator will typically identify the issues that the couple will need to address in meetings to come. This initial meeting usually organizes the issues and reveals information needed to address them. Subsequent meetings will attempt to resolve these issues and arrive at a final conclusion.
Mediators will generally do all they can to keep discussions on track. They will ensure each spouse has the appropriate time to speak without interruption, and if needed, they will ask the spouses questions to explain or restate something. Mediators also provide information that the spouses will need on the legal system or how judges or attorneys may view certain issues.
Mediators also help describe solutions for disagreements. Since a mediator is a neutral party, the mediator cannot provide legal advice. However, good mediators will keep the process fair and not allow one spouse to dominate the proceedings. Spouses in mediation are also free to consult an attorney or other professionals if they are not clear about an issue.
Spouses are free to reject whatever solution the mediator offers. However, should the spouses come to an agreement, the mediator will draft the solution and allow the spouses and their legal representatives to review it. If all parties agree and a court finds no problem with the agreement, the court will enforce the agreement. With a successful mediation, a couple may avoid the emotional turmoil of a contested divorce, retain control over the solution, and resolve their divorce at a lower cost.