CAN MEDIATION HELP IN ANGRY DIVORCE?

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

My wife and I are getting a divorce and I'm not sure if mediation can help. We can't agree on who gets the kids, and she is demanding more money than I make. Is mediation just for couples who get along and have an "amicable" divorce? Can it help us reach an agreement?

Answer

It might help. Mediation is most helpful for couples like you and your wife who cannot reach an agreement on their own. Couples who can reach agreement on issues like child custody and support probably don't need mediation. They can often reach their own agreement, which a lawyer can turn into a legal document. (It is probably best if each is represented by their own attorney even when they both agree on basic terms.)

Parenting issues and financial issues are some of the most common issues addressed in divorce mediation. A mediator's job is to help you reach a *fair* agreement by helping you generate alternatives, helping you to focus in the interests of your children, and assisting in the communication process. The mediator is neutral, but has a responsibility to both parties to insure that any agreement is balanced and fair.

Mediation may not be for you if there is a history of violence in your marriage. Some mediators will still work with such couples, but they will often require that the couple is also in therapy to address those issues. Other mediators refuse to mediate divorces where there is any history of spousal abuse or violence.

12/30/98

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