"All things at first appear difficult."-Chinese proverb
Your marriage may have gradually fallen apart, with the both of you going in different directions at different speeds. Or your relationship exploded with the discovery of an unacceptable indiscretion. Maybe you did the whole routine: had kids, raised them, and saw them off on their own lives. Then you both looked around at your own situation and decided it was time to call it quits. For whatever reason, you and your soon-to-be ex are now faced with disentangling your finances, friends, furniture, and fixtures from 'ours' to 'yours' and 'mine'.
It is not unreasonable to shudder at the task ahead. But take heart! Help is available in the guise of a mediator. More specifically, a divorce mediator. Drilling down further, a facilitative divorce mediator. A neutral person to assist you in decoupling with the least amount of pain and panic. You would think couples would run to find the mediation office.
A pity they don't. Too often the first thought that occurs to separating couples is...Crap, I need a lawyer and this is gonna cost me a fortune. So one, or maybe both of them, get a referral from their cousin's sister-in-law, or from the bartender at the Friday night debriefing joint, or their mother, who got the name from her stylist, whose daughter used the lawyer, from the TV, or even from one of the billboards around town. Because, of course, they couldn't divorce on their own. They just couldn't.
Frankly, there are some couples where the desire for revenge, the hunger for humiliation, and the lust for money make it impossible for them to sit down and negotiate. Such couples definitely need the services of an attorney, because they are facing a battle in court where each need gladiators. Unfortunately, about half the cases that go to trial before a judge have at least one and often two pro se litigants, people acting as their own lawyers. It should be sobering to realize that, if you do that, you are expected to know the rules of court just like a lawyer.
Ask yourself, though, do most people consult a lawyer when they fall in love, or when they marry, or when they decide to have children, or when they decide how to raise those kids? But when they reach the end of the line with each other, suddenly they are incompetent, stupid, and all thumbs and can't handle the divorce like they did the wedding? Is that true?
Probably not. If they did all the preceding things, they are certainly capable of ending the marriage on the best terms possible. Some people can even do it on their own, laying hold of the proper forms, negotiating between themselves, and completing all the necessary paperwork.
For many more couples, a little assistance is of great help. That's where mediation comes in. The mediator can give a couple the benefit of his or her experience and can share legal information. (Careful, now, not legal advice. That would be treading too hard on attorneys' shoes.) Mediators can help them find creative solutions to what seems like impossible demands. And they can prepare the necessary forms so the couple only need file them and pay the filing fees.
So, if you're feeling like the Chinese proverb above says, should you consider mediating your divorce?
The best answer is "It depends." If one or both of you has abruptly developed Sudden Nerve Deafness and has no inclination to listen to or make an argument or even speak, or if domestic abuse has reared its ugly head, or if your partner is an unmitigated control freak, voluntary mediation probably won't work. But if you disagree but can still discuss, if you both are concerned about the future of your children, and if you can look at your partner and say, "I may not love him/her any more, but she's/he's not stupid, and he's/she's a good parent," then you should probably try mediation before running to the courthouse steps.