Does Mediation Work?

Research Proves That Mediation is Effective
Couples who mediate their divorce have improved communication skills, better parenting relationships and are more satisfied with the process and their divorce agreement. Couples who have litigated or been adversarial spend more money, have a longer divorce process and are more likely to be back in court post-divorce arguing about parenting their children. Years of research comparing couples who mediate to couples who litigate prove these results.

The main advantage of mediation is that you are empowered to advocate for yourself and make decisions that you want to make, keeping you in control of the process. That is key to enabling you to recover from your divorce and move on with your life. Mediation allows the two of you to get through your divorce with more cooperation and much less conflict than if the divorce is adversarial.

Even when a couple is unable to fully mediate their divorce, studies show that the time and money they spend on litigating the remaining parts of their divorce are far less than those who never mediated. A majority of these couples attribute this reduction in cost and time specifically what they learned while in mediation. They learned that continuing to communicate or beginning to communicate effectively, empathizing with each other and focusing on the future greatly benefited them.

Settlement Rates
Mediation is effective in settling 50 to 80 percent of divorce cases. Regardless of whether couples find mediation privately or through a court program, whether mediation is voluntary or mandatory, and whether the mediating couples had a history of domestic violence or marital conflict, this is true.

When couples walk in to mediation with a forward-thinking attitude, are willing to focus on the future and not bring up the past, empathize with their soon to be ex, and keep an open mind no matter what, the settlement rate goes into the high 90’s.

Having a good therapist on your team before you start the mediation process will also increase the success rate of divorce mediation. You must work on your feelings of anger, sadness, fear of the unknown, with someone who is experienced in helping you in the proper setting. When someone is able to focus on the “business side” of the divorce, and when people have an open mind, a successful mediation is almost guaranteed.

Overall Client Satisfaction
Couples who mediate are far more likely to be pleased with the results of the divorce process as opposed to couples who have completed an adversarial divorce. According to one study, 69 percent of mediation respondents were somewhat to very satisfied, compared to 47 percent of men and women in an adversarial process.

Success of the mediation depends on the mediator’s creativity and perceived skills, how effective the mediator is in helping clients deal with anger and whether the mediator is able to avoid imposing his or her viewpoint on the client. Additionally, mediation can have an extremely positive effect on the couple’s relationship going forward, satisfaction with the parenting schedule, property settlement, spousal support and understanding children’s needs and issues. In most cases, mediating couples reported much higher levels of satisfaction than those that did not know that mediation was an option or mediate during the divorce process.

This satisfaction, interestingly, also helps people with their next relationship. They are at peace with their divorce, ready to move on and have learned some communication skills they can use in the future. People who have mediated have also learned, through communication with their ex during the mediation sessions, some helpful information as to why their marriage didn’t work out, which is hopefully information they will be able to use in their next relationship.

Satisfaction Among Women
In general, the difference in the levels of satisfaction with mediation among men and women is not statistically significant. In an adversarial divorce, men are significantly less satisfied than women with the process and outcome, as they are the ones you customarily have less parenting time with their children and have to pay Child Support.

Initial research reflecting findings that women are disadvantaged in mediation has been discredited. On the whole, women who mediate while going through the divorce process express greater satisfaction with both the outcome and process than women who litigated. They are given a voice, are able to communicate with their ex and hopefully see that their post-divorce lives will be alright, and their children will be better off going forward because they mediated.

Terms of Agreement Affected by Mediation
In general, mediated agreements tend to be more comprehensive than settlements reached either voluntarily or involuntarily in an adversarial court proceeding. In general, mediation results in more shared parenting responsibilities compared to adversarial processes, but not necessarily a different parenting schedule. Researchers have not found statistical differences in calculation of child support payments, although mediating fathers are more likely to agree to pay for extra-curricular activities and other “extras” for their children and are more likely to voluntarily commit to helping with college expenses.

In mediation, more time is spent on the details and listening to what is important to both parties. With this information, the divorce mediator is able to facilitate discussions that lead to more fine-tuned agreements, agreements that are specifically geared to a particular family. Most divorce agreements start as a template, and when people litigate their divorce, the final agreements are more of a “fill in the blanks” agreement vs. a details agreement that is unique to each family.

Long-term Mental Health
Surprisingly, researchers consistently find mediation does not seem to have any long-term statistically significant effect on the psychological adjustment of the divorcing couples or their children, whether the mediation is only about parenting or also covers financial aspects of the divorce. There are many reasons why this might be, though the simplest reason is that mediation is a less stressful process than litigation, a process that saves time, money, focuses on the children and is confidential.

Length of Time and Cost of Divorce
Mediation makes divorce efficient and less expensive. Mediating couples tend to conclude their divorce in substantially less time than couples who litigate. They also spend much less money. Though the overall cost of a divorce depends a lot on where you live, and the relationship between the spouses, a fully mediated divorce, and the legal work necessary to finalize it in court, are 5 to 10 times less expensive than a litigated divorce. The same thing applies to the time from start to finish, 4-6 months from the start of mediation to the date of the divorce vs. 2-3 years in a litigated divorce.

Compliance With Divorce Agreement and Frequency of Returning to Court
Couples who mediate have the buy-in and have higher rates of compliance with mediated agreements compared to divorces resolved through litigation. This includes parenting schedules, responsibility for holidays, payment of child support and spousal support, and completing the final division of property. Couples who return to court do so more frequently when their divorce has been adversarial as opposed to those who have mediated.

Mediation clients attribute the above to working together with their spouse during the divorce, learning and recognizing that they can reach agreements together and that their mediation agreement was detailed and specific to them vs. a template that is not specific and does not anticipate the future.

Call our Chicago Divorce Mediators at C.E.L. & Associates, Inc. Today!
Brian James: (312) 524-5829  Ellen Feldman: (847) 507-3204  Anne Levinstein: (847) 770-1478

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Chicago Family, Divorce Mediators

Divorce mediation services can be arranged during all phases of the divorce process. Contact our Chicago Family, Divorce Mediators at C.E.L. & Associates, Inc. for a consultation.

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