Does Mediation Work?
There have been more than 50 studies on divorce mediation in the last 20 years. There appears to be enough data to lean favorably for the success of divorce mediation. Here is what the studies have found: Settlement Rates
The research reflects that mediation produces agreement in 50 to 80 percent of cases, whether court-referred, voluntary or mandatory or whether there has been a history of intense marital conflict.

Overall Client Satisfaction
Couples who have utilized mediation have reported a greater satisfaction with their divorce then those who went through an adversarial divorce. Clients reported gave much of the credit to the skills and professionalism of the mediator. They sited the creativity of the professional, their success at managing the emotions of the couple, their ability to remain neutral, the mediator’s ability to have each person feel heard and understood, and to help the couple come to fair agreements about their property settlement, child custody and parenting plans.

Satisfaction Among Women
In general, the difference in the levels of satisfaction with mediation among men and women is not statistically significant. This is in contrast to adversarial divorce, where men are significantly more dissatisfied than women with the process and outcome.

There has been some discussion of findings that women are disadvantaged in mediation, but that initial research has been discredited. On the whole, women in mediation express greater satisfaction with both process and outcomes than do their litigation counterparts

Effect on Terms of Agreement
In general, mediated agreements tend to be more comprehensive than settlements reached either voluntarily or involuntarily in adversarial court. In general, mediation results in more joint legal custody compared to adversarial processes, but not necessarily a different parenting schedule. Researchers have not noted a statistical difference in the treatment of child support payments, although mediating fathers are more likely to agree to pay for "extras" for their children and are more likely to agree to help with college expenses.

Long Term Mental Health
Researchers agree that mediation does not seem to have any long-term statistically significant effect on the psychological adjustment of either divorcing couples or their children, whether the mediation is custody only or comprehensive

Cost in Time and Money
Mediating couples tend to resolve issues in their divorce in substantially less time than that taken by their counterparts in litigation. They also tend to spend significantly less money. In one study, couples in the adversarial sample reported spending 134% more (more than twice as much) for their divorces than those in the mediation sample. Most reports tend to find less dramatic differences, however, in the 30-40% range.

Compliance and Relitigation
Researchers generally report higher rates of compliance with mediated agreements, when compared to agreements reached in the adversarial process. This includes parenting schedules, payment of child support and spousal support, and completing the final division of property. Relitigation rates are low in general among mediated samples and are lower than in adversarial samples. A possible major contribution is the feeling each person has on making the final outcome.

Kathy Memel, Ph.D, MFT

Author's Bio: 

I have a deep and caring concern for the human condition and having more than 20 years experience as a licensed marriage & family therapist has influenced my practice of psychology. Working with individuals, couples and families, together we develop a fuller understanding of your thoughts, motivations and behaviors.

I have served as a Family Mediator at the Los Angeles Superior Conciliation Court and has over 20 years of professional experience as a Licensed Marriage, Family and Child Counselor. My background includes training in child custody mediation, parenting skills education, and counseling. I also bring five years of experience working as a paralegal in family law.

I am currently a member of the Academy of Family Mediators, the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and a member of the Association of Family & Conciliation Courts.

I bring a vitality, warmth and understanding that creates a safe environment to discuss the most difficult topics. I believe my understanding of childhood trauma, divorce, depression, anxiety, grief and loss, creates a knowledgeable and well trained clinician. My goal is to offer an education and understanding of what causes us to feel stuck and then helps to open up a viewpoint that increases our options and choices.

Working independently or as part of a therapist/attorney team, I have the experience and expertise to deal with the volatile emotional issues that can arise in child custody cases. Approximately 90% of the families I work with reach an agreement and leave with a positive attitude. I have a reputation for working creatively with attorneys and judicial officers. I have been able to help parents understand the issues they face and implement and innovative, effective and mutually-satisfactory Child Custody & Visitation Parenting Plan that focuses on the "best interests of the children."