Divorce is unchartered waters for most people. But aside from the emotional complexity, the process itself can be just as challenging. What are the steps? What are the options? Does it have to involve lawyers and court appearances? In fact, often one of the most confusing aspects for soon-to-be exes is the role of mediation in the divorce process. Here’s what you need to know about court-ordered versus private mediation.

What Is Mediation?

In general, mediation is a process in which a trained mediator serves as a neutral third party to help divorcing couples resolve issues such as distribution of assets, child custody, child support and alimony, for example. The mediator does not resolve issues for you as a judge would do, rather they act as intermediaries using dispute resolution methods and negotiation techniques to guide the mediation process constructively towards an amicable agreement.

While mediation can be done privately or through court order, the actual process is the same. But there are advantages and disadvantages of each option.

Court-Ordered Mediation

This type of mediation is much like it sounds; ordered by the court after the divorce is already in progress. In some states during divorce litigation, mediation is required regardless, but in others, it may be ordered only if settlement talks stall.

One advantage of court-ordered mediation is that you’ll likely pay very little for it. On the other hand, by the time mediation is court-ordered, you and your ex may be in such a stalemate that one or both of you is less than receptive, making the process much more difficult.

Private Mediation

In private mediation, you and your ex initiate the mediation process yourselves, likely before divorce litigation begins. If you can reach a settlement agreement during this process, once you submit the divorce petition the court will consider it “uncontested” and that settlement becomes part of the divorce judgment. 

Private mediation has numerous advantages over litigation in that it saves you time and money, preserves your privacy, and quite simply is less confrontational than a court battle. What’s more, mediation services like ours are fully virtual for added flexibility and convenience – not only will you not have to appear in court, you won’t even have to leave the house or deal with your ex in person!

You will have to pay for private mediation directly (usually split between you and your ex), but it helps you avoid litigation so you’ll still save in court costs and attorney fees. Another disadvantage could be that you can’t come to an amicable divorce agreement through mediation, and then have to go to court anyway. Not to say this has never happened, but it is less likely given that you both elected to mediate in the first place.

Our private mediation team includes a former prosecutor who’s also an experienced mediator and collaborative divorce practitioner, as well as a licensed social worker with over fifty years of experience working with children, families and couples. As such, we’re uniquely equipped to help you navigate any challenges you face during your divorce. For more information on how our online mediation services can help you, contact today to learn more.