Does Divorce Mediation Work? What the Stats Say...

Divorce is a confusing time and it's hard to know where to turn for help.

Everyone has their well-meaning words of advice:

  • "Lawyer up!"
  • "Make him/her pay!"
  • "Don't give an inch!"

At some point, the term "mediation" might come up. A divorce mediator is a neutral professional who guides the spouses through the many decisions they need to make as part of their divorce, including alimony, child support, parenting schedules, and dividing assets and debts. Even if the mediator is an attorney, he or she doesn't actually represent either spouse — the mediator's job is to be completely neutral through the entire process.

The claim is that mediation is more amicable and less expensive than "lawyering up" and fighting tooth and nail in open court.

But does that claim hold up?

Fortunately, we have some numbers to help answer that question, and the answer, on average is a resounding YES.

Check it out:

A few things to note about these numbers.

The success rate varies significantly by mediator.

Different mediators reported different success rates. Some reported a 50% success rate, while others reported an 80% success rate. The mediator's qualities that contribute to successful outcomes include:

  • Humanity (humor, optimism, empathy, sympathy, friendliness)
  • Intelligence; adapability; problem-solving mindset
  • Professionalism

A mediator who embodies all three of these qualities will have a much higher agreement rate.

Even partial agreements can save money.

These statistics are only for full agreements. Many other mediations will still result in partial agreements, significantly reducing the cost of whatever process is used to sort out the rest.

Mediation isn't just about money.

Saving money is a huge reason for many people to choose mediation, no doubt. But there are other factors to consider. Mediation is about working toward mutual agreements, an approach that can help lay the groundwork for successful co-parenting after divorce. Divorces spouses are also much more likely to comply with mediated agreements — 80 percent versus 40 percent!

Mediation isn't right for every case. Cases involving abuse or neglect might not be right for mediation. But for the majority of cases, the numbers tell a pretty clear story: mediation works.