Types of Mediation

In 2020, the American divorce rate hit an all-time low. Just 630,000 couples filed for divorce that year. If none (or few) of your peers are moving through divorce, you may not be familiar with your options. For example, you might not know that you could use mediation to untangle tricky parts of your divorce.

All mediation types aim to help couples resolve issues and end their marriages amicably. But some approaches facilitate problem-solving, so couples can work together after the marriage ends. Others are structured to correct power imbalances so one party can't bulldoze the other. 

Here's what you need to know about the three types of mediation in widespread use today: facilitative, evaluative, and transformative mediation.

Facilitative mediation: What is it?

Facilitative mediation is sometimes called traditional mediation. If you've ever watched a movie or television show featuring couples wrangling over divorce details in private conference rooms, you've been introduced to this model. 

In this type of mediation, couples guide the outcome. A trained professional begins, referees, and ends the talk. But the couples work out solutions collaboratively. 

Facilitative mediation often involves these steps:

  • Introduction: A mediator introduces the concept and brings up a topic for discussion. 
  • Discussion: Each partner introduces a potential solution and offers background information about its benefits. The other party shouldn’t interrupt or interject. 
  • Negotiation: The mediator identifies differences and similarities between both proposed solutions and gently encourages both parties to find a middle ground. 
  • Documentation: Couples write out their solutions on documents filed with the court. 

After a successful facilitative mediation, some couples resolve their issues so completely that they don't need to go to divorce court at all. And since they've proposed the solutions, they may feel very invested in sticking to their promises. 

Finding results both parties can live with is the goal of facilitative mediation. Neither party gets exactly what they want, but both feel the process was fair and collaborative.

Evaluative mediation: What is it?

In about 20% of marriages, couples assault one another. In other marriages, couples lie, cheat, or steal to get what they want. Divorces stemming from these situations are often painful. Power imbalances keep people from collaborating openly. An evaluative mediation may help. 

Lawyers often hold evaluative mediations, and they control the conversation very carefully. While these mediators are impartial third parties, they bring their knowledge of the law to each discussion point, helping couples reach a legally amicable separation.

An evaluative mediation often involves these steps:

  • Introduction: The mediator explains how the process works and sets expectations for the conversation's tone. Couples might be reminded not to interrupt one another, for example, and the mediator might explain what would cause the talk to end early. 
  • Positioning: The mediator introduces a topic and instructs both parties to share their ideal solution. The mediator listens carefully and may ask for supporting documents (such as bills or statements) to support one side's claim. 
  • Expert opinion: The mediator highlights the legal merits of each side and outlines how a court might rule when given the same information. The mediator offers a solution that a court would likely impose. 
  • Private conversation: Both parties enter separate rooms, and the mediator goes between them, offering subtle tweaks to the proposed solution. 
  • Completion: Resolutions are documented in paperwork couples can file with the courts. 

Couples aren’t passive during evaluative mediation. They must agree to anything in writing, and they can walk away at any point. But since the evaluative mediator takes such a powerful role, people don’t learn how to communicate and collaborate in these sessions. This option works best for couples who never need to talk to one another again. 

Transformative mediation: What is it?

Some couples must work together, even when their divorces are completed. People who share children are especially connected. The average American family has about two children. When partners split, they must facilitate visits, make child support payments, and more. Transformative mediation may help.

During transformative mediation, couples enhance their communication skills. A trained professional helps them learn to listen carefully, see the other person's point of view, and collaborate carefully. Resolving a sticky issue (such as spousal support payment amounts) isn't a primary goal. Helping couples to work together as partners (to deliver children for visits without fighting, for example) is paramount. 

A transformative mediation often involves these steps:

  • Rule setting: The mediator outlines acceptable behavior (such as reflective listening) and unacceptable behavior (such as interrupting). Both parties agree to follow the rules as introduced. 
  • Introduction: The mediator brings a topic to the table and asks both parties to explain what they want.
  • Negotiation: The couple discusses each idea carefully and respectfully. The mediator steps in with helpful communication tips, but the couple crafts their resolution.
  • Documentation: If the couple comes to terms, they’re written in forms filed with the court. 

Some transformative mediators connect with clients after the divorce. They offer more advice when new problems arise or people slide into bad habits. Ongoing coaching can ensure couples keep the skills they gain during mediation. 

Which is right for you?

In any mediation, couples work with one professional. Both you and your partner must agree on the mediator and the approach. 

One of the options we've outlined may appeal to you immediately. If not, talk with your partner. You may settle on the version that's right for your situation.



Number of Divorces in the United States from 1981 to 2020. (September 2022). Statista. 
Types of Mediation: Choose the Type Best Suited to Your Conflict. (October 2022). Harvard Law School. 
Domestic Violence. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. 
Types of Mediation: Evaluative, Facilitative, and Transformative. (August 2022). ADR Times. 
Average Number of Own Children Under 18 in Families With Children in the United States from 1960 to 2022. (December 2022). Statista.
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.