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Resolving disputes creatively

Understanding the role of mediation

Divorce can be an emotionally draining process as couples fight over child support and custody, alimony and division of their property. New York law now provides an alternative to a long and expensive court battle: divorce mediation.

Divorce mediation uses the services of a trained third party, usually an attorney, to meet with the divorcing couple (and their attorneys). That third party assists them in stating their concerns and in meeting each other's demands.

The process has several advantages, but the chief advantage is the fact that the mediator cannot make any binding decisions. The couple must each make their own decisions resolving the issues between them.

In effect, the mediation process is voluntary. Because the outcome is voluntary, mediation also gives each party more control over the substance of the marital termination agreement. The sense of having more control often makes it easier for one or both parties to make decisions that otherwise could be fraught with a high level of emotion.

The mediator's principal role is to enhance the ability of the couple to communicate. Divorcing couples are often so consumed with anger at each other that they lose the ability to hear and understand what the other person is saying.

A mediator knows how to listen and can rephrase demands and accusations in words that are not necessarily inflammatory. The mediator can point out areas of agreement that the individuals may have missed and help the couple explore reasonable options for every issue in the divorce. In this way, a mediator fulfills the title: mediator, a person in the middle.

Persons who are contemplating a divorce may wish to consider mediation as a more affordable process than engaging in a courtroom battle. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer can provide advice on whether divorce mediation is appropriate given the circumstances of the divorce.

Source:, "Divorce Mediation," accessed on May 8, 2017

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