What Is Divorce Mediation?

A couple attending a divorce mediation proceeding

Are you undergoing a separation and in the process of getting divorced? Then you might have heard about ‘divorce mediation’. If you don’t know what it is exactly, it’s basically a process where you and your ex-partner sit down together to discuss terms and reach agreements that are best for both of you and your children. The process involves meeting with a third-party mediator who is there to act objectively and help you to reach agreements. Divorce mediation usually looks at issues like your property and assets distribution, custody arrangement, super funds and taxes.

What should I expect?

During divorce mediation a couple will sit down with a mediator to talk about the issues they would like to work out and come to agreements about. Sometimes these agreements are easily reached but it’s often the case that there will be some sticking points especially if there are kids involved. Divorce mediation is all about open communication and getting ex-partners to speak empathetically with each other to reach suitable agreements. When things get particularly tense, this can be a good way to start to build an amicable foundation.

Divorce mediation is a confidential process and gives ex-couples a safe space to work out their problems. Mediators are neutral parties and not there to pass judgment or provide advice on what a couple ‘should do’. They are there to assist by helping people to test ideas and reach agreements.

Do we have to do it?

Divorce mediation is a voluntary process and it only continues as long as all parties want to be involved. If one party decides it’s no longer productive then it will not go ahead.

How long does it take?

The process can take place over a matter of days, weeks, months or even years. It depends on the particular divorcing couple and what their needs are. The length of the process will be dependent on the issues that you need to resolve and how willing you and your ex-partner are to reach agreements. The length of the process will be reduced if you can come to equitable agreements about certain matters ahead of divorce mediation as this means you’ll be able to focus on your ‘main’ issues during the process. If you’re not in a place where your certain you can reach amicable agreements then it’s better to avoid trying to resolve things outside of divorce mediation, however. Ending up in a shouting match will only make trying to resolve your issues more time-consuming and could lead to more time spent with your mediator and higher costs.

The average for most couples will be around 4-10 sessions but if things can’t be worked out then your matters might end up in the courtroom. Working with a mediator is often much, much cheaper than going to court. Usually, it only costs a few thousand dollars to get your issues worked out with a mediator, whilst the average court case will cost around $15,000.

Court often also leaves people feeling unhappy and like satisfying agreements were not reached as all the decisions were made by a judge. Working with a mediator gives you more control over the outcome of your case and helps to ensure that both parties walk away feeling like their needs were met.

It’s also much more private. The courtroom is a public space so any issues worked out there will be publicly disclosed which can be embarrassing and stressful. Working things out quietly with a mediator is often preferred if you value your privacy and don’t want details of your marriage made public.