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Is divorce mediation the right choice for you and your spouse?

For couples who divorce on amicable terms, mediation offers a number of advantages. It provides them with more control over things like property division and child custody than when it is litigated in court. Therefore, the terms reached are less likely to be disputed by one or both parties later. It also is usually faster and less expensive. Perhaps most important to many people, it tends to be a less rancorous process.

Despite all of these advantages, mediation is still not the most popular means by which people end their marriages. That's largely because it requires that spouses be able to work together, listen to each other, be respectful of one another and be willing to compromise. For many couples, communication has broken down so badly that this just isn't possible. There are too many emotions at the surface to deal with the important issues that need to be addressed.

Unlike a divorce where an attorney is representing each spouse, in mediation, the couple has to work together to reach agreements with which they both can live. For many estranged couples, that kind of partnering may not be possible.

It's important to understand that the mediator is there to facilitate the conversation and the agreements made. However, he or she can't force people to listen to one another and understand the other spouse's perspective if they're not willing to do so.

Neither is a mediator a judge. People often try to get the mediator to declare that they're right and their spouse is wrong. Mediators are trained to remain neutral. It's not their role to make decisions for the couple.

Many couples opt for mediation believing that because they're civilized, rational people, they can work out a divorce agreement without attorneys. However, it's essential to understand what's involved in mediation and take an honest look at whether you and your spouse are ready for the cooperation involved before beginning the process.

Source: Huffington Post, "Five Reasons Why Divorce Mediation Isn't More Popular," Betsy Ross, LICSW CGP, accessed Nov. 20, 2015

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