Amanda Blystone answers:
Parties to a divorce can agree to mediate their case, but family courts can also order parties to participate in mediation. Regardless of whether you mediate by agreement or the court compels mediation, the process itself is the same. A neutral third party – the mediator – works with both spouses to help them reach an agreement on the issues they’re facing. Depending on the case, one or both parties may have their lawyer attend mediation along with them.
Some mediators will hold joint meetings between the parties during mediation. But most commonly in our area, parties remain in separate rooms from one another, with their attorneys present to advise them, and the mediator moves back and forth between the two rooms trying to help the parties broker a deal. If an agreement is reached, the terms are put in writing, the parties sign, and the court approves the agreement.
In this way, divorce mediation allows the parties to resolve their dispute without ever having to see the inside of the courtroom. If an agreement is not reached, the mediator simply reports to the court that the parties have participated in mediation but were unable to reach an agreement. A party is never compelled to reach an agreement during mediation, and the process is confidential.