Many people might not be aware that divorcing couples can work out the end of their marriages outside of a courtroom. Some couples pull off an amicable divorce by going to mediation. Since mediators are less familiar to the public than judges, it may help to learn in advance what mediators do before going to mediation for the first time.
First, a mediator is not a judge. A mediator does not fill the same role that a judge does in a courtroom. Mediators are facilitators between spouses, helping to make it easier for them to work out their divorce. Forbes explains how mediators function and how they differ from other people who typically handle divorces.
How mediators function
In a court setting, a judge generally seeks the most equitable solution possible to resolve a dispute. However, a mediator does not try to drive the discussion towards a particular solution. The idea behind mediation is that the spouses mutually agree on solutions without bias from a mediator.
A good mediator does not act like an attorney, either. Lawyers look for facts and negotiate the best possible deal for their clients. Mediators are not supposed to perform either action. A mediator seeks to create a comfortable space for spouses to talk without advocating a deal for one side or the other.
Asking the right questions
A spouse who sits down with a mediator should expect to hear questions starting with “how” or “what.” Mediators generally have the spouses clarify the issues they want to resolve and give them an opportunity to establish context for themselves. From there, a mediator will typically restate the important points to make sure the parties comprehend the issues at hand.
By contrast, a mediator is less likely to ask a person “why.” Asking someone why they feel a certain why or why they think they are right can provoke feelings of insecurity. A spouse might feel put on the spot and give a defensive answer which could stir up conflict.
Keeping your own counsel
Since a mediator cannot give legal advice, divorcing spouses need to retain their own legal counsel during the mediation. According to Forbes, spouses may rely on their own lawyers for advice before the mediation begins and between the mediation sessions. If possible, attorneys may attend the mediation session itself. Having legal representation on hand may help the spouses feel confident that they will navigate the mediation without losing out on their rights.