There are a number of reasons to choose divorce mediation over divorce litigation: it is often faster, less expensive, and less public than going to court. However, one of the most popular reasons that more Washington couples are turning to mediation for their divorce agreement is that it is a better and easier route for their children.

Reasons Why Divorce Mediation May Be Right For You 

•    Mediators have the best interests of your children in mind when creating parenting plans.  Much like a judge, a mediator is ultimately concerned with the wellbeing of the children involved in your divorce case. Ideally, mediators strive to ensure that children have a significant amount of contact with each parent and to make certain that parents continue to work together to successfully parent even after a divorce.
•    After mediation, you’re less likely to find yourself in court over child custody. Studies have shown that couples who use divorce mediation are less likely to return to court over changes in child custody or child visitation. Why? Experts believe that parents are more likely to adhere to a plan that they helped create and more likely to work together to renegotiate child visitation terms amicably outside of court.
•    Mediation keeps matters private. Divorce mediation keep arguments and negotiations with your spouse out of the public sphere – everything that the mediator hears is strictly confidential. Your children will not be party to the particulars of your negotiations, nor will the public.
•    Mediation teaches you essential parenting skills for the future. During the mediation process, you will learn to work with your spouse to resolve conflict, even after your relationship is over. These skills can be put to work in years to come, as the two of you work together to parent your children.

Can We Use Divorce Mediation If We Have A History Of Domestic Abuse?

Divorce mediation is absolutely not recommended for families that have a history of domestic abuse, domestic violence, verbal abuse, or emotional abuse. In Washington State, mediators will pre-screen for signs of domestic abuse and exempt domestic violence cases from divorce mediation. For mediation to work properly, the two parties must stand on equal ground and not be motivated by fear, anxiety, or intimidation. The bottom line is that domestic violence is a crime and should never be mediated. It should be handled in court. While individual counseling can be helpful for both parties, it can be counterproductive and even harmful to the victim to attempt to mediate a divorce with a history of abuse.

Talking To Your Spouse About Divorce Mediation

You and your spouse have already made the decision to seek a divorce, but what is the best way to have a discussion with your spouse about whether to choose divorce mediation or divorce litigation? While there are a number of good reasons for many couples to try divorce mediation before heading to court, it is also understandably difficult to bring up a discussion about mediation with your partner during such a fraught time in your relationship.

•    Pick a time to talk in which neither of you are angry or emotional. Studies have shown that humans actually have difficulty listening to new ideas when they feel anger. You and your spouse may be fighting a lot at the beginning of the divorce process, but try to find a time when both of you are calm and open-minded.
•    Let your spouse be part of the decision. Coming out and saying that you think mediation is the best idea may be less effective than sharing the benefits of mediation with your spouse and letting your spouse decide for himself or herself whether or not it could be the best avenue to try.
•    Have information and resources at the ready. Your spouse will probably have a lot of questions about mediation – and he or she may want to hear facts that don’t come directly from you. Be sure to have information available or a list of online resources for them to explore on their own time.

If you can’t imagine having an open and honest conversation with your spouse regarding divorce mediation, mediation might not be the right choice for your family. Divorce mediation requires that both spouses are willing to cooperate, willing to talk openly about their needs, and willing to compromise and make tough decisions. If your spouse is unwilling to consider mediation, it is a strong sign that he or she might not benefit from the mediation process anyway.

Do you have more questions about divorce mediation, or are you looking for a divorce mediation attorney? Talk to our Seattle and Bellevue divorce mediation attorneys today about your situation or download one of our free divorce guides.

Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington