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How Does Mediation Work?

Posted in Blog on February 6, 2020

Your Guide to Divorce Mediation


Circle graphic showing how divorce mediation works. Interconnecting rings include Peaceful, Cost Effective, Fair, Through, and Child-FocusedAround 40-50% of first marriages in the United States end in divorce. The rate of divorce rises to 67% for second marriages.

Some of the hardest parts of dissolving a marriage are letting go of old plans, learning to co-parent from two homes, and creating a financially solid future.

If you are one of the many American couples divorcing this year, you may be taxed financially and emotionally. Divorce mediation can save you thousands of dollars, allow you privacy and control over the outcome, as well as significantly reduce the stress associated with a divorce fought out in court

How does mediation work and is the mediation process right for you? Let’s take a look.

Why Mediate?

Divorce mediation comes with multiple benefits to both parties. Mediation is a non-adversarial, voluntary process that is private. It is also much less expensive than a divorce settled in court.

The mediation process provides you with increased control and flexibility in the outcome of your divorce. Through communication and collaboration, parties in the mediation process can come up with creative solutions to their problems. Courts are limited in the kinds of decisions they can make, but in mediation the parties can do almost anything so long as it is not illegal. Moreover, in mediation, you and your spouse maintain control over the outcome of your settlement rather than a total stranger, who knows little about you and your children.

Some states require couples to demonstrate a good faith effort in mediation before scheduling divorce hearings. However, there are exceptions where there is a history of domestic violence. These laws demonstrate a judicial preference for families to resolve their own issues and maintain control of their own destinies.

Role of the Mediator

A mediator’s role is to facilitate a conversation between you and your spouse about important issues in your divorce. A mediator is a neutral. They do not take sides or give advice. Their job is to assist the parties through the stages of the mediation with a goal of reaching a settlement on all issues in dispute.

Mediation Stages

A mediation generally proceeds through four stages:

  1. Initial statements
  2. Identifying issues
  3. Generating and Assessing Options and Making agreements
  4. Drafting points of agreement.

In the first stage of mediation the parties each take turns explaining what issues brought them to mediation and what they would like to see happen as to those issues. This is an opportunity for you and your spouse to share directly with one another what your concerns are regarding important issues related to your divorce—usually surrounding money and children.

In the second stage of the mediation and based on information exchanged in the first stage, the mediator and parties identify a list of issues that need to be addressed in the mediation, such as who will keep the house, what will the parenting plan look like, how much support will husband pay to wife. The mediator will typically write this list up on a board, so that the parties can prioritize which issue to tackle first and to keep the discussions focused in the next stage.

The third stage of mediation focuses on generating options regarding each area of disagreement. Again, the mediator will typically write these options onto a board for everyone to see. Once all options have been identified, the parties will then engage in a critique of the pros and cons of each option. Such a discussion assists the parties in narrowing the possibilities and reaching an agreement.

In the fourth stage of mediation, the mediator will draft the points of agreement for the parties to review, preferably with an attorney. These points of agreement may be given to the court as the terms of your divorce settlement.

How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

How does mediation work? Mediation is a process of communication facilitated by a third-party neutral (the mediator) assisting parties in identifying areas of disagreement, options for resolving those disagreements, and reaching mutually agreeable solutions. Mediation works because often times divorce conflict is caused by a breakdown in communications. Mediation allows parties to communicate in a safe and private space, with the assistance of the mediator.