There is no set formula when it comes to divorce mediation. Each couple’s circumstances, goals, and issues are different, making the process unique to every situation. I have been mediating for over 25 years and have never seen the same divorce circumstances twice. A mediator uses their expertise combined with mediation techniques to help each unique couple create a successful plan. Four types of mediation are:
Transformative mediation theorizes that the process has the capability to transform and change the individuals involved. This inner transformation is affected by “empowerment” and “recognition” skills developed during mediation—individuals have the power to make their own decisions, and recognize the needs/feelings of the other person.
Facilitative mediation focuses on helping clients to reach a mutual agreement based on needs, goals and objectives. In this style, the neutral mediator acts as a facilitator between the couple, structuring the mediation sessions so that clients gather necessary information and look behind “positions” to find the underlying interests. The clients come to agreement without the mediator giving his or her own advice, opinions, or recommendations. The couple chooses the outcome while the facilitative mediator structures the process of reaching this agreement.
Evaluative mediation focuses on the legal issues associated with divorce. An evaluative mediator assesses each side’s case, predicts how a court proceeding would likely go, and makes recommendations for outcomes. This type of mediation is concentrated on the legal rights of each individual rather than their unique interests and needs.
Narrative mediation focuses on the story of each person involved that led to the conflict. The mediator helps the clients to create a new story that includes an agreement in which the conflict is resolved.
So, is a divorce mediation transformative, facilitative, or evaluative? There is no right answer. Each instance can call for a different one, a blend of two, three or all four mediation styles to reach a mutual agreement. Generally a divorce mediator is facilitative, acting as a neutral third party to help a couple through difficult conversations. An evaluative mediator would work alongside each person’s attorney to work out legal rights. Transformative mediation can come into play throughout the process as an individual builds and develops interpersonal skills. Narrative mediation can occur naturally as the couple creates a different, less acrimonious story. Normally, evaluative mediation should be kept to a minimum in divorce mediation, if it used at all, because the best divorce agreement is the one that meets the unique couple’s needs. A divorce mediator may use one or more of these styles combined with their professional practices to create a process that will reach a successful outcome in almost every divorcing couple’s situation.