“Separated or Divorcing? How Mediation Can Help...”

couple in marriage mediation

As a credentialed therapist who is also an attorney in the state of California,  I sometimes encounter couples who have run into some roadblocks or problems in their marriage and wants to attempt to work through them without divorcing.  I’ve also worked with couples who have decided to “call it quits” after growing apart for any number of reasons and feel that divorcing is the best option. They come to me for mediation 

Separation vs. Divorce

A legal separation is usually a court order that outlines the rights and duties of a couple while they are still married, but living apart.  A divorce is the dissolution of the marriage.  Although both situations can involve a judge ruling on issues such as child custody and visitation, spousal and child support, as well as property division, mediation by a professional can help to make the transition more smooth.

Counseling vs. Mediation

If a couple wants to save the marriage or attempt to resolve what sometimes seems like insurmountable disagreements, a marriage counselor can be indispensable in trying to reach compromise and reconciliation on sometimes deeply entrenched negative patterns the couple has developed.  The counselor’s job then is to act as a facilitator between the husband and wife to reach consensus on the individual difficulties to, hopefully, save the marriage. 

Marriage counseling diverges from mediation when a couple knows that the marriage is essentially over and would rather try to work out the terms of child custody and visitation, support, property, etc., as fairly and as amicably as possible through a trained mediator, in order to avoid costly litigation. 

The Benefits of Mediation

A mediator recognizes this and attempts to assist in redefining the couple as individuals and help them wade through the emotional and financial entanglements of their marriage so that they can move forward as single individuals.   The mediator’s primary job is to help the couple move through these issues smoothly without a contested divorce. 

A skilled family law mediator can also be a great choice in helping to avoid litigation that can be destructive to children due to the animosity of one or both spouses, disputes involving property and other issues being contested by one party.  They help to keep both parties focused and on a path toward an amicable resolution to the divorce. 

Family dynamics are different for every couple and a good mediator can help couples navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of issues that have become  sensitive subject areas.  Recognizing that sometimes long-standing negative patterns can stir a plethora of emotions in couples, a seasoned mediator can employ techniques and tools to calm the parties down, assuage their fears, and keep them focused on the goals and outcomes they both desire. 

Mediation isn’t for every couple going through a divorce but it can be a very effective way to part ways amicably, as well as distribute property fairly and provide the best solution for the couple’s children regarding custody, support and visitation.  It should be at least a consideration before rushing to separate attorneys.