Facilitative Mediation

You and your spouse are prepared to end your marriage amicably, and you want a lot of control over your final discussions as a couple. A facilitative mediation could be right for you.

Facilitative mediation, also known as traditional mediation, involves working with a trained third party who guides the discussion. Throughout your time together, this person remains neutral and avoids stating preferences or recommendations. Couples choosing this option work to develop solutions together rather than relying on an outsider to tell them what to do. 

What is facilitative mediation?

During facilitative mediation, the mediator controls the conversation, but couples guide the outcome. 

A mediator using this method will do the following:

  • Ask questions to help parties understand the issues and one another 
  • Collaborate with clients on potential solutions
  • Work independently with each party when they hit a roadblock 
  • Support each party equally 

A mediator using this approach will not do the following:

  • Give an opinion about whether a proposed solution is good or bad
  • Introduce a novel solution to a problem 
  • Advocate for one party over the other 

Couples do a lot of work during facilitative mediations, and they're encouraged to bring their best ideas and an open mind to the discussion. Since they do so much work, they may feel very invested in the settlements reached and thus and more likely to follow them.

Download: What to Include in Your Settlement Agreement

How does facilitative mediation work?

Facilitative mediation is a guided conversation between two divorcing people and a trained mediator they've hired together. While each conversation is different, most follow a predictable pattern.

Couples tackle each item that is keeping them from a smooth divorce, and often, they work through issues individually. The process looks like this:

  • Introduction: The mediator brings a difficult topic to the table for discussion. The mediator offers some background information, including aborted agreements the couple made in the past. 
  • Positioning: Each partner outlines a potential solution and why it might be beneficial. Couples can be as thorough and detailed as they'd like to, introducing proof to back up why they think their solution is best.
  • Bargaining: The mediator identifies differences and similarities between the two proposed solutions and encourages clients to work together on a compromise. 
  • Documentation: The couple writes their agreement on legal forms to submit to the court to end the marriage.

Some couples complete mediation in one session, but others need multiple meetings to work through their issues. 

What is the main goal of facilitative mediation?

Facilitative mediation isn't designed to force people to follow the "rule of the law." Instead, mediators hope to encourage their clients to find results that work for them. Resolving disputes and ensuring both partners get at least some of what they want are the main goals of this type of mediation. 

Facilitative mediation is essentially a negotiation between two parties who don't see eye to eye but who are willing to work together to get what they want.

What are the pros and cons of facilitative mediation?

Many mediation approaches exist, and some may be better for your situation than others. Understanding the pros and cons of facilitative mediation can help you determine if this is the right approach for your marriage.

Facilitative mediation benefits include the following:

  • Collaboration: Since both parties are active participants, they are usually very invested in the solutions discussed. 
  • Speed: Couples must prepare for facilitative mediation, and if they do, they can move through the conversation quickly.
  • Control: Some people want to propose personal solutions rather than accept something a professional dreamed up for them. Facilitative mediation meets this goal.

Drawbacks to facilitative mediation include the following:

  • Imbalances: Since a mediator remains neutral, a dominant partner may bully another party into agreements they regret later.
  • Work: Couples must find their own solutions rather than leaning on the professional they've hired. This can require more time and effort from both parties.

Related: What Is Collaborative Divorce?

Is facilitative mediation right for my situation?

While facilitative mediation is common – and often considered the gold standard of divorce conversations – it's not the only approach available to you. 

If you like control, homework, and collaboration, facilitative mediation could be right for you. But if you're afraid of your partner and unable to advocate for your position, or you'd rather not develop your own solutions to complex problems, a different option might be better.

Suggested: Who Should Not Use a Divorce Mediator?



Types of Mediation: Choose the Type Best Suited to your Conflict. (October 2022). Harvard Law School. 
Types of Mediation: Evaluative, Facilitative, and Transformative. (August 2022). ADR Times. 
Let's Talk About Facilitative Mediation. (May 2021). LinkedIn. 
What Type of Mediation Is Right for You? (March 2022). New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators.
Divorce Specialists
After spending years in toxic and broken family law courts, and seeing that no one wins when “lawyer up,” we knew there was an opportunity to do and be better. We created Hello Divorce to the divorce process easier, affordable, and completely online. Our guiding principles are to make sure both spouses feel heard, supported, and set up for success as they move into their next chapter in life.