The whole idea of divorce mediation is a paradox. At first glance, you’d think that all a divorce mediator would do would be to act as one more professional involved, gumming up the works of your divorce and holding out his or her hand to get still more money out of you and your spouse.
Fortunately, depending on the style of mediation used, that’s not the way it works. I’ve seen it happen. I think the mediator’s peculiar role as a neutral is the key to what makes the process work. Because the mediator is neutral, he or she can throw out ideas that both sides may have thought about but neither side wants to suggest. The mediator also develops credibility with both parties that is usually not there for either party or for either party’s lawyer.
Lawyers love to make proposals and defend positions. A good mediator will steer the parties away from proposals and positions and toward accomplishing goals. A skilled mediator can also act as a “closer,” gently guiding the parties to an actual agreement rather than letting discussions drag on.
There have been many times when I’ve been in negotiations representing one of the parties, and I’ve longed for a mediator. I knew that a suggestion needed to be made, that the other party needed to make it, and that they hadn’t figured out that they needed to make it. And I knew that it might connote weakness for me to make it. A good divorce mediator would have stepped in and gotten the conversation going.
There’s no question that a skilled mediator can actually save money by shortening the time taken to negotiate agreements. This is particularly true when your and your spouse attend mediation sessions without your lawyers, using them “off line” as advisers rather than as your representatives in mediation sessions.