When most people think about the divorce process, they think about litigation. They picture both spouses and their attorneys standing in front of a judge, who will ultimately decide which outcomes are fair.
Although litigation is one way to resolve divorce-related issues, it is not the only way. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process that can benefit many divorcing couples, but may be especially valuable to couples with children.
What is mediation?
Mediation involves a couple working together outside of court to reach fair agreements on divorce-related issues, such as child custody. A neutral third party, called a mediator, helps facilitate effective communication, while guiding the conversation toward possible resolutions.
What if mediation does not work?
If a divorcing couple tries mediation and is unable to resolve their conflicts, they can still pursue litigation if they choose. However, a contested divorce can involve numerous parental conflicts, which can intentionally or unintentionally put children in the middle.
Parental conflict is often harmful to children in multiple ways. It can make both parents worse at parenting. Witnessing parental conflict can be distressing to children and may lead kids to blame themselves or cope with the stress in unhealthy ways. Children may also develop poor interpersonal skills and problem-solving abilities, and may develop a more negative overall world view.
How will mediation affect my children?
While mediation may not be a cure-all, it can help parents resolve conflicts in a more peaceful way, which can lead to numerous benefits. Some of the potential benefits of mediation that may affect your children, include:
- Children learning good problem-solving skills
- Less stress in each parent and each home
- Fewer barriers preventing parents from parenting well
- Both parents focusing on what is best for the children
- Parents learning communication skills that can improve co-parenting in the future
Every family’s situation is different, and mediation may not be appropriate for every family. However, for many families with children, mediation may be the least harmful way to end a marriage and make decisions about the future.