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The Stages in Divorce Mediation

Erstwhile couples who have agreed to make their separation process as painless as possible often opt for mediation over court litigation. Such couples employ the services of a mediator who helps them negotiate and come to a voluntary agreement on the terms surrounding the dissolution of the marriage. In addition, the mediator fosters communication and understanding between the two parties until the agreement is signed.

The mediation process could vary, but generally, mediation involves the following stages:


The introduction is the fact-finding stage of the mediation process. The mediator also explains all the important steps in the mediation process to all parties confidentially to prevent any confusion as the process progresses. Both parties also provide the mediator with background information regarding the separation, such as the length of the marriage, number of children involved, and contact information. Some divorce mediators do a combined session with both parties, while others prefer to consult separately before mediation.

Participants in mediation can share sensitive information and express emotional difficulties or worries, such as fears about their safety. Both parties should be completely honest about what they seek to achieve during this stage. Being honest improves the possibility of reaching an agreement that leaves everyone satisfied.

Gathering Information

Following the introduction, the mediator will request certain documents to get a clear picture of the divorce situation. These documents could include financial tax returns, bank statements, children’s school schedules and personal debt statements. When information that is needed is unavailable or is in dispute, the mediator will endeavor to assist you in obtaining it or determining what is right.

If more research is required, the mediator could employ the services of a neutral professional. In this stage, details such as alimonychild custody, and division of marital support are addressed. Suppose, during this stage, you feel the other party isn’t being honest, or is withholding privy information. In that case, you must let the mediator know.


Spouses define their desired outcomes and needs during this stage and their reasons for wanting them. Spelling out desired outcomes helps define the main aim of the mediation, which is finding a settlement that suits the most important interests of both parties. In aspects where spouses’ interests overlap, such as in child custody matters, the mediation process is usually smooth.

But, of course, both spouses’ interests don’t always align. Hence, spouses would need to compromise and work out an agreement that they can live with. As a result, some mediators prefer to carry out the framing stage separately with each spouse. In contrast, others believe in doing it jointly with both spouses, since they feel it sets the negotiation stage.


A sensible settlement is negotiated when the mediator has helped the spouses frame their issues and interests. Negotiation usually begins with a review of the many possibilities available. Next, the couples debate and evaluate their alternatives with the mediator’s help until they narrow down their choices to the best ones for both sides. A successful negotiation will only occur by trading off acceptable choices rather than being stuck in perpetual bargaining where a spouse’s gain equals the other spouse’s loss.

Formalizing a Settlement

At this stage, a tentative agreement is then written and sent to both parties for consideration by their advisors. Once both parties acknowledge the agreement, it is submitted to the family court for approval. Once the court approves it, the agreement becomes binding and enforceable.

Are you seeking divorce mediation in San Diego? Get in contact with a mediator or divorce lawyer today to smoothen the separation process.