Most Pennsylvania residents who are contemplating a divorce are preparing themselves to spend a significant amount of money and endure heavy emotional pressure before the case is finished. While neither of these costs can be entirely eliminated, the use of a professional mediator can significantly reduce both costs.
Mediation has proved so effective in eliminating the emotional conflict in divorces that Pennsylvania statutes now require every divorce to be submitted to court-ordered mediation. The parties to a divorce proceeding can privately choose a mediator and work with that person to resolve issues in the divorce (that’s “issues in the divorce,” not “issues in the marriage”).
The basic process
Whether the mediation process is court-ordered or chosen by the parties, the process begins with a meeting of the mediator, both parties and their attorneys. Each party is given the opportunity to explain their concerns to the mediator; some mediators give the parties the opportunity to provide this information in writing before the first meeting.
The mediator may ask questions or challenge questionable assumptions of either or both parties. Mediators who have received specialized training as a mediator have been taught that they cannot take sides or appear to favor one party over the other. Even though a mediator’s questions may seem to be highly partial, the mediator is usually just seeking information to help in understanding the issues in the divorce.
If the first meeting did not lead to a complete agreement on resolving issues such as child support or alimony, the mediator may call for a second or even a third meeting. The mediator may also meet separately with each couple for a confidential conversation about the unsettled issues.
Reaching an agreement
The mediator is not empowered to make any decisions on any of the issues that divide the couple. The only decisions that will bind the couple will be their own decisions. If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator will draft an agreement and submit it to the judge for review and signature. If some but not all issues are resolved, the mediator will inform the judge, and the unresolved issue will be submitted to the court for resolution after a trial.
Does mediation always work?
If the parties are determined to resolve their divorce issues as quickly and cheaply as possible, mediation may prove to be very successful. If the parties cannot resolve their anger toward each other, mediation may be unsuccessful. If a person has questions about mediation, an experienced divorce attorney can often provide useful answers.