Why would you want to choose mediation to resolve your marriage? Some people are unaware of the different process choices that are available to them once they decide to end their marriage. That’s no surprise, unless they’ve had to face this difficult life transition before, right? And yet, when I speak to some people about mediation they have a different understanding of what the process looks like. I get descriptors like, “A mediator makes decisions for what you and your spouse don’t agree on.” Wrong. “A mediator will chose sides and there will be a winner and a loser and I’m not sure which I will be so I think I need a lawyer.” Wrong, well sort of, you need a lawyer but a mediator is a professional neutral. A mediator helps to facilitate the discussion so that both spouses can work on what they want their agreement to look like. It’s not a mediators function to make decisions or to slant the discussion in favour of one spouse over another. OK, so now that we have looked at a couple of common beliefs about what a mediator is that are incorrect let’s look more at what a family mediator does.
A family mediator is a neutral third party that helps a divorcing couple communicate so that they can resolve the issues that are on the table that need to be resolved so that they can go on with their separate lives. The couple make the decisions that are going to affect their family and their finances. What is different about mediation, in comparison to other divorce process’, is that the couple are more likely to engage and practice in whatever they have chosen because they chose it. The mediator helps to give legal information (not advice) with regard to property division, child and spousal support. Why? Because at the end of the negotiation your mediator will write a Memorandum of Understanding which each spouse will bring to their individual lawyers for review. The lawyer will want to ensure that the agreement is a ‘balanced’ agreement. In other words, that the division of assets, support levels and access to children is reasonable, from a family law perspective. If you have deviated from what the law says could have been yours you should do so knowingly and that should be written in the Memorandum of Understanding. If not, your lawyer is going to make sure that their client is aware of what they have agreed to and what their rights are.
So why choose mediation? Because it is empowering as the couple choses their own resolution and what is best for their family rather than trusting a judge to make decisions for a family, in a more adversarial process, that they don’t even know. Mediation can improve communication and cooperation between the couple as they start to feel better about the decisions they have made and achieved together. This can also help to continue good cooperation after the negotiations are done and they have to co-parent together. Mediation is a confidential and private process. No one knows what agreement the couple have come to. Divorces that go through a court of law are all available to public disclosure. Mediation can be more cost effective than court and the time commitment, from the beginning to the end of the process, typically is much shorter.
So maybe the better question is, “Why not choose Mediation?”