When a married couple decides that the marriage must come to an end, they are not always destined to end up battling it out in front of a judge, with attorneys at their sides. An increasingly popular alternative is mediation, both because it is far less expensive than a litigated divorce, and it is often much quicker because you aren’t waiting for court dates that are spaced out by months.
Mediation differs from a traditional divorce in court because instead of a judge having the final rule on the issues at hand, the two spouses are the ones that cooperatively come to an agreement on how assets will be divided, child custody and visitation, etc. This gives more power and control to both parties, and no one feels as if their voice and interests were not accounted for or set aside.
The role of the mediator is not to be the final arbitrator, but rather to facilitate the conversation and guide it to a final resolution. Another aspect of mediation that differs from litigated divorce is that the spouses represent their own interests, and try to work amicably with each other, instead of relying on (and paying) attorneys to communicate these interests to one another and the court on behalf of the couple.
Sometimes the agreements come easily, as the two spouses already see eye-to-eye on some of the issues. For instance, if both can agree that one should retain and live in the marital household, then there is nothing more to discuss, and that issue is solved within an hour! However, other issues, like child custody, may not be so easily resolved. Here, the mediator can help keep emotions out of the decision process by keeping the group focused on the topic and intervening when the conversation stalls.