It is quite common for couples to consider divorce at some point during their marriage. These thoughts of divorce are often triggered by specific concerns that, if left unaddressed, can get worse over time. One or both spouses feel unsatisfied, frustrated or betrayed, and the pain and lack of communication can lead them to file for divorce. Before reaching this point, it is wise to seek the advice of a mediator, who can help couples decide what is best for their relationship. The mediator will ask the struggling couple to consider two options: reconciliation, or divorce using mediation.
To find out what the couple really wants, the mediator will first ask the couple if one or both partners are sure they’re ready for a divorce, or if they realize their couple is in crisis and they know what needs to happen to save the marriage. If both partners believe there is an opportunity to rebuild the relationship, the mediator will start reconciliation. During the reconciliation process, the mediator will organize a series of meetings, usually starting with each spouse individually. This step allows the mediator to listen and understand one spouse’s perspective without getting interrupted by the other spouse. Once the mediator has gathered a list of problems from both sides, he/she will meet with both spouses to initiate conversations, introduce productive communication strategies, and focus on problem solving. Throughout the reconciliation process, the mediator will not take sides and remain neutral, encouraging the couple to work together. The mediator may also suggest a trial separation, to provide both spouses for space and reduce daily conflict. This also gives spouses an opportunity to find themselves again, experience what life after divorce would be, and consider if that really is what they want.
It’s important to note that using a family mediator for reconciliation is very different from using a family therapist. Therapists rely on psychotherapy to diagnose past issues and help couples establish new behavior patterns. Mediators tend not to dwell on the past and instead focus on the couple’s future by helping them solve current issues, and teach them how to reduce friction, improve communication and develop problem solving. That doesn’t mean a mediator can do it all. Sometimes the mediator will identify issues that need to be addressed by additional professionals, for example in the case of substance abuse, or financial trouble. Marriage reconciliation can have very positive effects if couples intend to stay together and are motivated to make the effort to repair their marriage. However some couples realize they are too far apart to reconcile, or they have disagreed for so long that they’d rather end the marriage. In this case, the mediator will suggest divorce mediation to facilitate the separation process and limit conflict.
Divorce mediation is most often a better alternative than litigation. While litigation can cause tremendous emotional and financial pain, divorce mediation intends to keep a couple’s negotiations civil, productive and efficient for fast resolution. It allows spouses to maintain control and work together to resolve issues about asset and debt division, parenting, and spouse and child support in an amicable manner. The divorce mediator can help spouses accept that their life as a couple has ended, and that they need to focus on healing and build a new foundation after divorce.