Knowledge Base

Is Marital Mediation an Alternative
to Divorce? 


June 1, 2016
Written by Lynne C. Halem

Phil and Diane had been married for 25 years.

They had raised two children to adulthood, both of whom had graduated from college and embarked on what appeared to be fulfilling career paths.  Indeed Phil and Diane were each successful in his and her own right.  Diane was an English teacher in an inner City school and Phil was an administrator at a major hospital.

Despite satisfaction with career choices and pride in the achievement of their children Phil and Diane were unhappy. No longer did they look forward to weekends or vacations.  Once best friends, they had lost the ability to chat, to confide in each other, to find companionship and romance in their relationship.

Whereas Diane found some comfort in telling others of her unhappiness, Phil did not talk about his feelings to friends or family.  Indeed Diane did not even know that he shared her feelings, that he, too, knew something was wrong, even if unable to identify the issues or the origin of the problem. 

Thus we have this couple, Phil and Diane, who appear to have all the trappings of a successful life and family and yet who are discontented with their most important relationship—their marriage.

Diane took Phil by surprise, announcing that something had to change, that unless they addressed the problems between them, she was going to seek a divorce. Although Phil reacted with surprise, he understood her unhappiness, an emotion that he, too, felt. Phil and Diane decided to try marital mediation rather than to seek a divorce. 

Today Phil and Diane are celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary  For this couple,  marital mediation proved to be exactly the right intervention.  They worked with the mediator to identify what each viewed as the problems in their relationship, and also, to reflect on what they missed about each other—in effect, where to figure out where the “spark” had gone.  They began to plan times together, to actually date again, and to go on vacations where they could resurrect old feelings and develop new ones. For Phil and Diane, marital mediation provided answers to questions that previously had seemed unanswerable

Marital mediation is not therapy nor does it try to replace therapy. 

It is a problem-solving process designed to identify issues and reach agreements.  As such it is a relatively short-term process in which couples often experience the benefit of their work almost from the outset.  There is also the very real side benefit of improving communication skills at the same time that couples are striving to structure a new framework for their relationship.

Marital mediation may address a variety of different issues, including the following:

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