Pennsylvania couples who are getting a divorce may try to resolve property division and child custody arrangements through mediation instead of litigation. In mediation, a neutral third party attempts to assist the other parties to resolve conflict and reach an agreement that is satisfactory to both of them.
Mediation is not a formal process, but there are usually certain rules that must be followed. The mediator will usually go over these rules at the beginning of a session. Confidentiality is a rule for most sessions. Each party or each party's representative then usually makes opening statements. Conversation may proceed from here, but if the mediation starts to break down, the mediator will usually separate both parties. The mediator then speaks to each party confidentially and relays offers back and forth between the two. Mediation does not have to lead to an agreement, and couples may turn to litigation if it is unsuccessful.
Mediation may offer a number of advantages over litigation. It can be less time-consuming, expensive and likely to increase conflict. However, there are situations in which experts say mediation might not be the right approach. It requires that both parties negotiate in good faith. Mediation may also be the wrong approach if the process of property division is likely to be financially complex.
In other cases, couples may find that mediation allows them to explore more flexible solutions than litigation does. For example, a couple might be able to work out a creative child custody agreement that suits their family. Instead of a traditional custody and visitation arrangement, parents might keep the family home and have the children live there full time while they live there part time. Couples may also be able to agree on each person keeping certain assets instead of having to divide all the shared assets.