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Divorce mediation: when might it be right?

Divorce can be a frustrating process for both parties. Often, both husband and wife, or mother and father if that be the case, feels that the process is rigged against them. Experienced family law practitioners in Arizona are sensitive to this and to the trend in recent years toward the increased use of mediation services to avoid possible tense litigation. The question that bears being asked is whether and when mediation might be right.

Based on the trends and evidence, there is certainly something to be said for mediation in certain situations. It should be noted, though, that it depends on the level of the complexity of the case. If there are difficult child support or property division matters that need to be sorted through, mediation might not fit the bill.

One study published last year by Oxford Journals indicates that there may be some capability to minimize litigation friction in a divorce involving children if mediation is combined with parent education and some level of support services.

Authors of the study looked at 142 families, each of which had a child under the age of 6 and in which the parents had filed for divorce. Half of the families went through the typical court process. The other half received a high level of structured help in the form of parent education, mediation, case management and collaborative clinical aid involving legal and mental health professionals.

What the authors concluded is that higher touch interventions resulted in less litigation. But what they said was perhaps the most significant contributor to good outcomes was the increased cooperation of mother and father in trying to come to terms. The greatest level of benefit appeared to have been shown in how the mother and father were able to find common ground on parenting schedules.

As we noted earlier, while these results about mediation suggest potential value in certain situations such as those involving couples with children, the process has its limits. It must be noted that the study didn't include couples in which a high level of conflict already existed. Parents with substance or domestic abuse issues weren't involved, either.

Another issue that deserves to be considered is that attorneys engaged as mediators can't represent either of the divorcing parties in the event it fails and the matter winds up going to court.

Source: Huffington Post, "How To Prevent Litigation In Divorce Disputes," Robert Hughes, Jr., March 27, 2012

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