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Is Divorce Mediation Right For Me?

By Alan E. Freed

Although couples have been getting divorced through mediation for over 40 years in the St. Louis community, many people considering using mediation know little about how it works. I regularly receive inquiries from potential clients who have misconceptions about the mediation process and therefore don’t know whether it is a good fit for their situation. Let’s break it down: 

What is divorce mediation? 

Mediation is a problem-solving approach to divorce in which an impartial third-party mediator assists a couple in negotiating the terms of their divorce, including the division of property and debt, spousal support, child support, and parenting.

Does mediation eliminate the need for lawyers? 

The answer to this question is a qualified “no.” Although divorcing spouses could go through a divorce without lawyers, I always strongly recommend that they engage lawyers, both to provide them with legal advice and to handle the court filings. Since I, as a mediator, do not represent either spouse, I can only offer legal information, but not legal advice. I can’t file documents with the court on behalf of either spouse. However, because the couple is doing most of the “heavy lifting” themselves (gathering information and negotiating), their lawyers’ fees should be kept substantially lower than would be the case in a traditional representation.

Do I have to be on good terms with my spouse to succeed in mediation? 

The answer to this question may surprise you. No, you need not be friendly with your soon-to-be-ex to work with a mediator. I have mediated with many couples who are friendly throughout the entire process but have also succeeded with couples who can hardly stand the sight of each other. Since my focus is on problem-solving, part of my job is to help the couple focus on success as co-parents or, if they have no children, on simply uncoupling in as peaceful a manner as possible. I discourage them from dwelling on past wrongs because they will probably have very different views on who is at fault for their breakup, and they are unlikely to convince each other they are right. 

How do I start a conversation with my spouse about mediation? 

Couples engaged in relationship counseling have an ideal environment for this discussion. If you and your spouse are not seeing a counselor and you are interested in mediation, the two of you may wish to read some of the posts on this blog about mediation and other divorce-related topics to increase your knowledge. The more you learn about the process, the more comfortable you both will feel. Even if you have not yet discussed mediation with your spouse, you can call me, and I will fill you in on the essential details. My policy is to have phone conversations with both spouses before they come in to see me. That way they can each get answers to their questions directly from the mediator, and they can start the process with an agreement by jointly selecting the mediator.

For more information on divorce and divorce mediation, contact me or one of the other family law attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal.


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