Wouldn’t it would be great if divorce didn’t exist, people were always happy in their marriage, and they stayed together for the rest of their lives? There was a time when people tended–for better or worse–to stay married, and divorce was not commonplace. Unfortunately today, as we are all aware, divorce rates have been quite high, and only continue to rise.

When a couple separates and/or decides to divorce, there are certain specific steps as well as legal procedures that need to be taken, the most important of which is the agreement on the terms of the separation/divorce. This can be simple, as in cases where there are no significant finances or other assets to divide, and no children from the marriage. It can also be quite complex, as in cases where a couple accumulated a large amount of material possessions over the course of a marriage, which can include real estate, other financially valuable items, money, complex assets such as retirement plans, as well as items that may not be so financially valuable but have strong sentimental value to one or both members of the couple. In situations where there are children involved, a whole new set of questions arises: Who will make the decisions about their lives and futures, how will their expenses be paid for, where will they live, and when will each parent be responsible for their care and have the right to spend time with them? 

There are often no easy and quick answers to these questions, so the options to resolve them are usually to either: hire lawyers to fight, or mediate. Obviously, mediation is the healthier choice.

Understanding Mediation

In recent years, one focus of professionals who deal with divorces has been in increasing the “quality” of the divorce process; in other words, minimizing the damage done and creating mechanisms where people have the opportunity to separate and divorce in a relatively peaceful and non-acrimonious way. This form of harm reduction has been increasingly recognized as crucial–because sometimes divorce is unavoidable, and when that’s the case, the best thing that can be done is to lessen the damage as much as possible.

Divorce mediation is the best way to manage the divorce process in a way that minimizes damage to all parties involved. Mediation is the process where a trained and certified mediator meets with the couple and walks them through the entire process in an active and educational way, making sure each party understands every aspect of each decision that needs to be made, and helping them come to resolution on each of these items.

In recent years, the use of mediation has steadily risen. This is fortunate because mediation is specifically focused on reducing the highly negative factors which, in a contentious divorce, can severely affect the mental health of all those involved in the divorce process, including, of course, the couple themselves, and any children they have. So essentially, mediation is protecting the mental health of divorcing families, and that is extremely valuable.

Mental Health Professional as Mediator

Many studies have demonstrated the high level of harmful mental health symptoms that can be directly attributed to divorces, both for the divorcing couple and their children. It is therefore crucial to have a mental health professional who is trained in areas of divorce involved in whatever ways necessitated by the specifics of the case. It is equally important to utilize a mediator who is well-trained, certified by a reputable professional organization, and knowledgeable in the unique aspects of the divorce process that relate to each particular case. 

One trend that has recently been becoming more popular is to utilize a mediator who is also a trained mental health professional. This has the positive effect of having one professional managing the process who is able to accurately identify and address issues related to mental health as they emerge throughout the mediation, and address them on the spot. These types of mental health issues come up constantly throughout the mediation process. For example, if a couple is attempting to mediate their divorce, but one area of contention that is proving difficult to resolve is the children’s schedule, then their mediator, who is also a trained mental health professional, can assess the situation objectively and is able to offer the couple options based on a professional assessment of what the children’s best interests are. This method is more effective and efficient than having to go out and hire a forensic psychologist to render an opinion about the subject. A couple is also more likely to agree to the suggestions of their mediator if he/she is also a trained mental health professional, since they recognize that the mediator’s suggestions are informed by extensive psychological training and education in these specific areas.

The mediation process is always preferable to its alternatives, which includes going to court or having lawyers fight to resolve the divorce. Especially when a couple has children, the main goal of a “successful” divorce process is to help the couple reach a state where they do not feel hatred for each other, are able to communicate successfully going forward, and are both active and effective parents to the children. The goal for the children is to be in an emotional state where they feel comfortable, truly feel that both parents love and care for them, and believe that all decisions that are being made are focused on them with only their best interest in mind. Having a trained mediator who is also a trained mental health professional can maximize the chances of achieving this result through mediation, and thereby maximize the chances of a positive outcome in what is always a very difficult and stressful process.