Couples planning their divorce in Pennsylvania can expect to encounter mediation at some point during the process. Some couples choose to pursue it on their own, while others see a mediator as the result of a court order. Knowing how the process works can help you make informed decisions and get the most out of mediation.
Mediation takes place with the mediator acting as a neutral facilitator. Courts may order mediation with a specialist for specific issues, such as custody. The mediator’s role consists of helping the parties communicate and come to a mutual agreement about disputed issues. This can take the form of framing the issues, suggesting solutions and defusing conflict. The mediator may not take sides, provide legal advice or order the parties to do anything.
Benefits of mediation
Many divorcing couples find it easier to communicate in the less formal setting of mediation. The process can also make it easier to come up with solutions that work for everyone, as the parties have greater ownership of the process. When children are in the picture, mediating can help maintain a cooperative relationship that will serve the parents as they have to keep dealing with one another for years to come.
When mediation may not be in your best interest
In some cases, mediation may prove counterproductive. This can happen when one spouse refuses to work together in good faith, either stonewalling the other spouse or taking deceptive action such as hiding assets. Because mediators cannot issue orders, they cannot force such a spouse cooperate. Domestic violence is another area where mediation may not work. Experts suggest that mediation in such a case be conducted by mediators specifically trained in domestic violence scenarios.
You may choose to have your attorney accompany you to mediation and provide you with legal advice and review proposed agreements. As you proceed with your divorce, mediation can prove a valuable resource in avoiding or reducing the stress and expense of litigation.