The following is an article published in November, 2005 in the Daily Local.

Going through a divorce is difficult for everyone. As couples face perhaps the most stressful periods of their lives, they must deal with important questions. How should they divide their property? How should they share time with their children?

Often, a public courtroom is not the best place to answer these questions. As a battleground, it can lead to increased stress and anger that can continue for years after the divorce.

Today, many couples are avoiding litigation and turning to mediation. They sit down with a mediator in a private setting and work out a solution. When the mediation is successful, they agree on a property settlement and on the best arrangements for their children.

Is Mediation Right for you?

What is Mediation?

In mediation, the husband and wife work out their dispute with the help of a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party who is specially trained to help you through the mediation process and be sure you are fully informed before you make any decisions.

Even if you are have already been to court on some issues, you can mediate other issues. Any agreement you reach in mediation is voluntary. The mediator will not force you to make an agreement. If you don’t reach an agreement voluntarily, or if you end your mediation, you don’t lose your right to litigate your case. You can decide to end your mediation at any stage.

What happens during a Mediation?

Both the husband and wife meet with the mediator at his or her private office. They discuss the facts of the case and how they think issues should be resolved . In this informal setting, each has the opportunity to suggest possible solutions and to consider the suggestions made by the other person.

What is the mediator's job during the Mediation?

The mediator makes sure that the process is fair to both sides. The mediator will help you discuss all your choices and make fully informed decisions. You will decide how your case should be resolved. The mediator will not take sides with either individual.

Will the mediator counsel us or give us legal advice?

No. Although mediators are usually attorneys or mental health professionals, your mediator will not provide legal advice or personal counseling.

Will I need a lawyer if I mediate my case?

Your mediator will probably require both parties to have attorneys review any final agreement you reach during your mediation. A lawyer will also prepare a formal agreement that both parties will sign. An agreement for custody or support will be filed with the court and become a court order. You may also need other professionals such as a business or real estate appraiser or an accountant to help you fully understand your financial situation so you can make an informed decision about your settlement agreement.

Does mediation work in all cases?

A growing number of people are using mediation today when they will have continuing contact, such as a divorce involving children. Many people are also using mediation to solve disputes over business relationships, employment problems, contract issues, elder care and neighborhood disputes. However, mediation may not be an option if your case involves physical abuse.

Is mediation less expensive and less time-consuming than litigation?

In most cases mediation is much less expensive than litigation. You arrange the meetings, so you can usually meet with your mediator more quickly and more often and reach your agreements sooner than if you had gone to court to resolve your case.

How can I find a qualified mediator?

You can call the Chester County Bar Association at (610) 692-1889 for more information. You can also look under the “Lawyers” and “Mediation Services” sections of your telephone directory. Many mediators are members of a national mediation organization, such as the Association of Conflict Resolution, which requires continuing training. You should choose a mediator who has experience in the area of law that matches your particular case.

If you would like more information about mediation, the Pennsylvania Bar Association offers a free consumer education pamphlet called “Mediation”. You may request a copy by calling the PBA at (800) 932-0311, ext. 253. You may also visit the PBA website at www.pabar.org.