What Is Mediation In Divorce?

  •   |   Meghan Freed

Black letters that say "mediation & divorce" on a white background with a blue border and the gold freed marcroft divorce and family law logo in the lower right hand corner.Updated December 11, 2023

You have probably heard of mediation and wondered, “What is mediation in divorce?”  Please read on to learn more about divorce mediators and how they can help you resolve your divorce in Connecticut.

What Does Divorce Mediation Mean?

Connecticut has two main types of divorce mediation.  The first is an out-of-court process for resolving your divorce.  The second form mediation takes in Connecticut is a tool to resolve the outstanding issues in divorce litigation.

Read: ADR & Divorce

Read: Settlement & Divorce

Connecticut Mediation & ADR

The first type of mediation is an alternative method for resolving your divorce.  The default process for divorce in Connecticut is litigation.  Mediation and collaborative divorce are the two most common substitutes, referred to as alternative dispute resolution or “ADR.”

In this type of mediation, your divorce mediator guides you through all the issues you must resolve for a Connecticut court to grant your divorce.  Mediation as a complete divorce process is our focus in this article.

Read: Mediation, Collaboration, or Litigation? 

Read: Alternative Ways to Divorce in Connecticut: Litigation, Mediation, and Collaborative Divorce

Mediation as a Settlement Tool in Litigation

The second type of mediation happens if your attorney suggests deploying mediation as a settlement tool during divorce litigation. In these situations, you don’t participate in mediation throughout your entire divorce process.  Instead, in the middle of a litigation you hire a private divorce mediator.  This mediator can assist you with specific aspects of your divorce, usually in one or two meetings. The mediator people select in these cases is frequently a retired family court judge.

CT Divorce Mediation

This article discusses the first type of divorce mediation in Connecticut. In this type, couples work entirely outside of court to settle their divorce.  In divorce mediation, the mediator serves as a neutral guide to help you reach decisions in your divorce.  Several topics must be decided for a judge to dissolve your marriage.  They are property division, alimony, custody, and child support if you have minor children.

Read: Telling the Children About Divorce and How Collaboration and Mediation Might Help

What Is Mediation?

Divorce mediation is when a mediator assists divorcing couples in reaching agreements on finances, child custody, and parenting. The mediator helps the couple communicate and find solutions together, but doesn’t make decisions for them.

Unlike traditional divorce litigation, which often involves court, mediation offers a more cooperative approach.  It focuses on collaboration, compromise, and reaching agreements that both people can live with.  Divorce mediation assists with various aspects of a divorce. These include determining child custody, dividing assets and finances, and establishing support payments.

Read: What Is a Mediated Divorce in Connecticut?

What Does a Divorce Mediator Do?

A divorce mediator is a trained professional who helps with the mediation process and remains neutral. The mediator helps the couple talk and negotiate, making sure both can share their needs and worries.  The mediator is usually an experienced divorce attorney.

One of the critical responsibilities of a mediator is to maintain a balanced power dynamic between the divorcing spouses.  They actively help create an environment where both individuals have the opportunity to be heard and understood. The mediator does not take sides or advocate for one party over the other.  Instead, they help the couple find common ground and explore creative solutions that meet both of their needs.

Read: The Role of a Divorce Mediator: Helping You Reach Agreements That Work

Are Divorce Mediators Lawyers?

Most Connecticut mediators are lawyers.  That said, Connecticut does not require that all divorce mediators be licensed attorneys.  Therefore, the mediator does not serve as an attorney in a mediation.

In other words, the mediator does not represent either spouse and can only provide legal information, not legal advice.  This is why we strongly recommend that you retain your own separate attorney.  We refer to this in Connecticut as mediation review counsel.

Read: Review Counsel in Connecticut Divorce Mediation

Read: Understanding the Role of Review Counsel in Divorce

How Does Divorce Mediation Work?

Generally speaking, your mediation will be a series of meetings between you, your spouse, and your mediator.  During those mediation sessions, your mediator will guide you through the decisions you need to make.

It’s important to note that the parties reach decisions in mediation, not the mediator.  This is different than a judge in a courtroom, who makes decisions in the form of rulings.  Arbitration is a private ADR process where the arbitrator, not the parties, decides.

You’ll work with your review counsel one-on-one before or after mediation sessions.  During the meetings, you will review your decisions and legal advice. Additionally, you will ensure that you are comfortable with and understand the agreements you have made. At Freed Marcroft, we also prepare the final settlement agreement you reach.

If you have busy schedules or are located far apart, virtual mediation is also an excellent option.

Read: Arbitration & Divorce

Read: Connecticut Virtual Divorce Mediation Lawyer

Benefits of Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation can offer several benefits over traditional divorce litigation.  First, it can save time and money.

Mediation typically takes less time than going to court, as the parties have more control over the process and can work at their own pace.  Plus, they aren’t waiting for the court’s schedule to accommodate hearing dates.  Additionally, mediation generally costs less than litigation since it’s more efficient and amicable.

Furthermore, mediation can help reduce conflict and preserve relationships.  The collaborative nature of mediation allows couples to maintain open lines of communication and work together to find solutions.  This is especially good for kids, as it reduces the likelihood of the divorce negatively impacting them.  It also sets the couple up to communicate better in the future as co-parents.

Another advantage of mediation is the flexibility and control it offers.  In court, a judge makes the final decisions based on legal standards.  In mediation, the couple has the freedom to create agreements tailored to their unique circumstances and preferences.  This allows for more customized and creative solutions that better meet the needs of both spouses.

Benefits of Hiring a Skilled Divorce Mediator

A divorce mediator plays a crucial role in facilitating the divorce process.  They act as a neutral party, helping couples navigate the complexities of divorce and reach mutually agreeable settlements.  A mediator helps a couple make their own choices instead of making decisions for them, unlike a judge.

One of the primary responsibilities of a divorce mediator is to create a safe and respectful environment for open communication.  This helps both people express their needs and concerns without fear of judgment or retaliation.  By fostering effective dialogue, a mediator helps couples find common ground and work towards solutions that meet their individual interests.

Of course, suppose one of the spouses doesn’t let the other speak or otherwise compromises the safe space of mediation.  In that case, the divorce mediator may end the session — or even withdraw from the mediation.

Another important aspect of a divorce mediator’s role is to educate couples about the legal aspects of divorce.  They provide information on the decisions Connecticut requires couples to make before a judge can grant a divorce.  They may also provide information about relevant laws to help couples make informed decisions.  This empowers individuals to take control of their divorce and promotes a sense of empowerment and autonomy.

Ultimately, the role of a divorce mediator is to guide couples toward reaching their own fair and amicable resolutions. They find and prioritize problems, help with negotiations, and assist in creating a legally binding agreement. A mediator helps both spouses understand each other’s point of view by considering the specific details of their situation.

Read: Benefits of Divorce Mediation: A Guide for Couples Seeking an Amicable Separation

Common Challenges in Divorce Mediation and How to Overcome Them

Of course, divorce mediation isn’t without its challenges.  In fact, divorce mediation can present various challenges for couples.  For some people, these challenges are too significant to overcome, and mediation isn’t the best divorce approach.

Others can overcome these challenges with the guidance of a skilled mediator and a commitment to open communication and cooperation.  Here are some common challenges in divorce mediation and strategies for addressing them:

1.  High conflict: Couples with a lot of fighting or intense feelings may find it hard to have helpful mediation sessions. In these situations, the mediator can use conflict resolution methods like keeping the parties apart or setting communication rules. The mediator can suggest counseling or therapy to help couples handle emotions and improve communication.

2.  Power imbalances: Power imbalances occur when one party feels intimidated or dominated by the other. A good mediator recognizes and addresses imbalances. They aim to create a safe and supportive environment. In this environment, both people feel empowered to participate in the mediation.

3.  Complex financial matters: Dividing assets, determining spousal support, and addressing financial issues can be complex and contentious.  A skilled mediator with a strong understanding of financial matters can help couples navigate these complexities.  They may recommend involving financial experts or provide resources to help couples make informed decisions.

4.  Child custody and parenting issues: Co-parenting disputes can be emotionally charged and difficult to resolve.  A mediator experienced in child custody matters can help couples develop parenting plans that prioritize the children’s best interests.  They encourage open communication and assist in finding solutions that promote the well-being of the children.  They may also recommend bringing in a child therapist to assist in crafting a parenting plan.

5.  Lack of trust: Lack of trust between spouses is a leading factor in divorce.  Divorce often erodes trust between couples.  Rebuilding trust is crucial for effective mediation.  A skilled mediator creates an atmosphere of trust and confidentiality, ensuring that both parties feel safe to share their concerns and needs.  They may also suggest additional resources, such as counseling or support groups, to help couples rebuild trust and address underlying issues.  Both spouses must commit to full transparency in providing relevant financial information and the like.  If they don’t, the mediator may end the mediation.

If they can address these common challenges, couples can typically achieve a successful resolution in divorce mediation.

The Importance of Open Communication in Divorce Mediation

Open communication is the cornerstone of successful divorce mediation.  It allows couples to express their needs, concerns, and desires openly, leading to more effective problem-solving and resolution.

This doesn’t mean that couples won’t have unresolved conflicts and emotional baggage when they engage in divorce mediation.  After all, they are getting a divorce.  That said, these emotions can create barriers to effective communication.  However, a skilled mediator helps break down these barriers and fosters an environment that encourages open and honest dialogue.

During mediation sessions, the mediator facilitates active listening to help each feel respected and understood.  This is designed to help build trust and allow couples to work collaboratively toward finding mutually agreeable solutions.

Open communication in divorce mediation also involves active problem-solving.  The mediator encourages couples to find constructive solutions rather than dwell on past grievances.  By shifting the focus to the future and prioritizing the best interests of both parties, couples can move forward with the divorce process more productively and positively.

Additionally, open communication allows couples to address any misunderstandings or miscommunications promptly.  In divorce, miscommunication can lead to unnecessary conflicts and delays.  A skilled mediator helps couples avoid misunderstandings and reach resolution more efficiently by fostering clear and open dialogue.

Ultimately, open communication promotes understanding, empathy, and cooperation in divorce mediation.  It allows couples to voice their concerns, express their needs, and work together towards fair and amicable resolutions.

Can You Mediate Custody or Post Judgment Issues?

Yes, mediation isn’t only for divorce.  You can mediate other family law matters, including legal separation, post-judgment, custody, and child support.

Are Divorce Mediation Agreements Binding?

Only Connecticut judges can order a marriage dissolved.  Once you reach a complete settlement agreement via mediation, you submit that agreement to the court for review and approval.  If the court approves your agreement, the judge will order that you are divorced and incorporate the terms of your settlement agreement into its ruling.  That’s how your mediation agreement becomes a binding court order.

Read: How Is Divorce Mediation Different from Traditional Divorce Litigation?

Divorce Mediation vs Lawyer

A commonly asked question is about using a divorce mediator vs. a lawyer.  As we discussed, Connecticut mediators are typically lawyers but don’t function as either spouse’s attorney when they serve as mediators.  You can hire a mediation lawyer – mediation review counsel – and still mediate your dissolution.  If you want to mediate, it’s critical that you retain an attorney who understands the role of review counsel.  Otherwise, you could wind up with divorce litigation.

If you are deciding between a divorce mediation or litigation, it’s essential to know that not all litigation is high conflict or ends up in a trial.

Read: What’s the Difference Between a Divorce Mediator and Lawyer?

Can We Use One Lawyer for Our Divorce?

No.  In Connecticut, one lawyer cannot represent both parties in a divorce.  However, a lawyer can be a neutral mediator to help spouses agree on their divorce.  That said, when a lawyer serves as a mediator, she doesn’t represent either spouse and can’t give either party legal advice.  That’s why we recommend each spouse retain review counsel.

Read: Why Mediate Your Divorce: 6 Key Benefits

Mediation vs. Collaborative Divorce

Both mediation and collaborative divorce are forms of ADR.  One of the key differences is that in a mediation, the parties meet with the neutral mediator together and their respective review counsel separately.  In a collaborative divorce, each spouse has an attorney participating in the collaborative sessions.

Read: Collaboration or Mediation?

Read: What Are the Big Differences Between Mediation and Collaborative Divorce?

How Much Does Divorce Mediation Cost?

Divorce mediation in CT costs between $5,000 and $12,500 on average.  Actual expenses depend on factors like the complexity of the issues, the couple’s ability to read agreements, the number of sessions, and the mediator’s experience and background.

Read: Demystifying the Cost of Divorce Mediation: What You Need to Know

Who Pays for Divorce Mediation?

One of the nice things about mediation is that you can decide how to pay for the divorce mediation right in the mediation.  Some spouses use a joint credit card or bank account to cover mediation costs.  Others choose to split mediation fees 50/50.  In some cases, one spouse covers more of the cost of mediation than the other.  There’s no hard and fast rule — it’s up to the two of you.

Read: How to Help Keep Your Legal Fees Down

Next Steps

Please check out our Divorce Information and Facts for more information about Connecticut divorce and family law.  If you have questions or want to learn more about how our team of divorce attorneys can help you, please get in touch with us here.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC