- What is private mediation?
- Private vs court-ordered mediation
- What can you discuss?
- Pros and cons
- How to find a private mediator
- Best time to start
- Is it right for you?
Divorce is one of the most stressful life events any adult can move through, and the more conflict involved during the process, the higher the stress.
Maybe you're considering getting help resolving some issues via a private mediator. While they can't eliminate all negative feelings associated with your split, this professional can enable calm negotiations with your spouse or partner so you can end things amicably.
You're not required to use mediation, but many couples find that working with one is incredibly helpful – often just as helpful yet more affordable and kinder than the "lawyered up" approach. You could work with a mediator at any point during your split, including before, during, or after your divorce.
Here's what you need to know to determine if a private mediator could help you with your divorce:
What is private mediation?
In a traditional divorce, both parties often hire lawyers and battle over children, assets, and debts in divorce court. Mediation is different. The mediation process allows two parties to negotiate and collaborate on their divorce terms outside of the courtroom and with less drama.
Private mediation is voluntary. Both partners agree to the process, and they choose a mediator together. That professional facilitates discussions and keeps the conversation civil.
But mediators never make agreements for their clients and do not give legal advice. Instead, they encourage both parties to work together to determine terms they can live with.
Hello Divorce has mediators nationwide. Learn more here.
What's the difference between private and court-ordered mediation?
While private mediation is voluntary, court-ordered mediation is not. Judges might require you to join this process if you can't resolve your issues in the courtroom or if the damaging data you're sharing to win your case is harmful to your children or your reputation.
Court-ordered mediation can be successful. Mediators know how to make opposing parties collaborate. In 99% of cases, they work with people who do not like or trust one another.
Private mediation is a conscious choice made by two people who want to collaborate on solutions rather than having the court hand out rules they must follow.
What can you discuss during private mediation?
Private mediation is a structured conversation between opposing parties, and you can cover almost any topic. Many couples focus on common points of contention, including these:
- Distribution of assets, including houses and cars
- Sharing of debts, including mortgages and credit card balances
- Child custody and support
- Spousal support
But you may have other issues standing between you and a peaceful divorce process. If you can't solve a thorny problem and it's holding up the process, you can discuss it during mediation.
Pros and cons of private mediation
Couples typically agree to abide by the agreements they make during mediation, so this conversation has consequences. Before deciding to participate, ensure you've carefully considered the pros and cons.
While mediation may not make your divorce pleasant, it can help to minimize the emotional impact of a divorce, and might even allow you to file for an uncontested divorce if you work out all your conflicts. You won't fight your battles in an open courtroom. A private mediator helps keep the peace and your issues private. When mediation works, you come together as a partnership to discuss things in a safe space with the mutual goal of resolving things amicably.
While private mediation is rarely free, it can save you money. You won't face fees associated with the following:
- Lawyers: Some couples use mediation to solve their issues, so they never need legal counsel. Since attorney fees can rapidly add up, this can save a substantial amount of money.
- Court cases: If you come to terms during mediation, you won't need to enter a courtroom for a long battle.
- Legal experts: If your divorce goes to court, you may need witnesses to discuss your child's health, your finances, and more. Some professionals need compensation for their time and talent. If you have a successful mediation, you may not need their help.
Mediation is also very private. Your discussion includes you, your spouse, and your mediator. Everyone else stays away.
Couples are often encouraged to avoid arguing or negotiating in front of their children. Mediation makes this possible, while a court case could make problems public and painful for children.
Mediators are trained professionals, adept at steering conversations between opposing parties. But mediators can't work miracles. If you won't agree on anything with your spouse. If one or both of you enter the talk hoping to score points, your mediation won't be successful.
Mediation also isn't recommended for couples with a power disparity. If one party has physical or financial holds over the other, mediation could provide an opportunity to bully the weaker person into an unsafe agreement.
How to find a private mediator
Talented mediators work all across the country, helping couples to end their divorces successfully.
To find a mediator near you, try these methods:
- Talk to a mediator in the Hello Divorce family as part of your plan or as a standalone service. They can meet with you virtually and help in all U.S. states.
- Search on the web using terms like "divorce mediator near me."
- Contact your state's bar association and ask for a list of recommended mediators.
- Ask the court processing your divorce for recommendations.
Work with your partner to choose the mediator that's right for your divorce. Ensure the professional you hire has worked with couples like you, and meet with the person at least once before the mediation to ensure you like their style and approach.
When is the best time to start private mediation?
Couples can use private mediation at any point, and sometimes, they work with their mediator multiple times to wind down their marriage successfully. The flexibility of private mediation is one of the key benefits of the process.
Divorces are final, and some couples aren't quite sure they're ready to take that step. You could ask a mediator to help you create terms for a temporary separation. During this time, you could see how you like your life as a single person, and you could go to counseling sessions to determine if your relationship is truly over.
After you file for divorce
Some states allow a DIY divorce process, in which couples fill out their paperwork, settle disagreements, and file for divorce outside of the courtroom. Using a mediator could help you resolve disputes, so you can file terms you both agree to.
While your divorce is final, your family keeps changing. Your childcare or pet arrangements, living situation, and financial status could all shift once you start your new life, and you may need to break or alter your divorce agreements accordingly.
A mediator could help you revise your agreements so you can file adjustments with the court and stay on good terms with your former spouse.
Is private mediation right for you?
If you're committed to working with your partner and you both agree to enter mediation willingly, private mediation could be right for you. The process may not be pleasant, but it could be an effective way to work with your partner collaboratively. An end result that benefits both parties without the financial and emotional costs of a court battle is often worth it.
If your partner doesn't agree to mediation, or you're not ready to collaborate with your spouse, private mediation isn't a good choice. Heading to court could be better for you.
Hello Divorce has mediators nationwide. Learn more here.
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ReferencesDivorce Is Stressful, but How Stressful? Perceived Stress Among Recently Divorced Danes. (January 2021). Journal of Divorce and Remarriage.
Resolve Your Divorce or Separation Out of Court. Judicial Branch of California.
Coping With Separation and Divorce. Mental Health America.
Divorce Mediation and Its Emotional Impact on the Couple and Their Children. (1984). U.S. Department of Justice.