Most people don’t realize there are three distinctly different divorce mediation styles. The three approaches of mediation are facilitative, evaluative, and transformative. These approaches vary greatly and can significantly impact your mediation experience. Be sure you understand which of these camps your potential mediators fall into before you agree to work with them.
Facilitative mediation is the oldest form of mediation. It was developed in the 1960’s and 70’s. In this style of mediation the mediator seeks to create an atmosphere where each party has a voice in the process. The mediator asks evocative questions in an effort to root out the fears and interests of everyone involved. In facilitative mediation the mediator often doesn’t make recommendations to the couple. Instead, the mediator attempts to get the couple to come to their own mutually beneficial agreements. Most facilitative mediation happens in joint session, but there can be short individual meetings as well.
The job of the facilitative mediator is not really to craft solutions but to encourage good communication. Sometimes this means facilitative mediators don’t have as much knowledge of the technicalities of divorce. To avoid this look for facilitative mediators who have additional training in divorce law or finance.
The evaluative mediation style imitates the mood of the settlement meetings help by judges. As such, this style of mediation is not for the weak at heart. During an evaluative mediation session the mediator will actively point out the weaknesses in your case. They will also try to predict how a judge would view your arguments. Evaluative mediators focus on protecting the legal rights of both people. They are less focused on addressing each person’s needs or interests.
Evaluative mediation often happens in separate rather than joint meetings. The mediator will go back and forth between the two parties. They will make recommendations to both parties and these recommendations will directly influence the outcome. Most of the time, this type of mediation is tied to a litigated case in a effort to reach a settlement before trial.
Transformative mediation is the newest form of mediation. It was introduced in the early 90’s in a book called “The Promise of Mediation” by Robert Bush and Joseph Folger. This kind of mediation focused on the “empowerment” of each spouse. It attempts to help each person recognize the other’s interests, needs, values and point of view. Like facilitative mediation, transformative mediation espouses the idea that a couple should structure their own solutions. The mediator should nurture this process and follow the couple’s lead.
We believe that one of the keys to a good divorce is empowering both people to express their concerns and needs. Both facilitative and transformative mediation attempt to do that. Evaluative mediation is more concerned with litigation and will be more prone to conflict. Make sure you have a good understanding of the different divorce mediation styles available to you.