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Is Mediation a Good Choice for Divorce Cases Involving Domestic Violence?

September 30, 2016 | Posted In Family Law

When a couple decides to dissolve their marriage, it is usually advisable for the spouses to create an out-of-court divorce settlement agreement without litigating every issue. If the divorcing couple is able to discuss the issues and come to a consensus on things like shared parenting time, support and property division, the divorce process should be a smooth one.

The couple who agrees on issues without going before a judge can benefit from reduced costs, a quicker divorce process and often an agreement with which everyone is happy.

Unfortunately, not every couple is able to compromise and develop their own divorce settlement. That being the case, working with a New Jersey divorce lawyer can be helpful when trying to settle, as can working with a trained mediator who facilitates effective communication for the couple. Mediation can often make compromise possible in situations where an agreement regarding an out-of-court settlement may not otherwise be reached, as mediators are trained to help couples find consensus.

While mediation is a good approach to trying to come to an agreement, it is not appropriate in every situation.  One situation where mediation may not be a viable option, and where a couple may have to end up in court, is when there is domestic violence involved.

Why Mediation May Not Be a Viable Solution in Domestic Violence Cases

Mediation requires a couple to work closely together and to cooperate. Mediation often results in a successful negotiated divorce settlement whenever both spouses come to a consensus. The mediator does not make decisions for the couple, nor does he or she ensure fairness in the final outcome or weigh in on the agreement that the couple makes. The sole job of the mediator is to try to get the spouses to find ways where they can communicate openly and agree on the best approach for their family.

In situations where domestic violence occurred, however, these same characteristics that made mediation a good solution in other divorces can end up making mediation the exact wrong approach.  There are many reasons why mediation could be a very bad idea if one spouse is violent or threatening towards the other.

One big issue is that mediation requires a willingness on the part of both spouses to compromise and work together. If one spouse is abusive, the aggressor could be unkind and even violent or threatening during mediation. The victim of the abuse could have a difficult time being assertive and arguing for a preferred division of property and custody due to fear of the abuser. 

If the abuser does not want the marriage to end, it is also unlikely he or she would be willing to work towards compromise in a divorce settlement.  The abuse victim could also end up agreeing to an unfair settlement out of fear or just to get the process over with and end the contact with the abuser that is a required part of mediation.

While mediation is almost always a bad idea for the above-mentioned reasons, it is important to note that every situation is different. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer with Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, P.A. can provide help in determining if mediation could be a viable approach for you and will help guide you through ending your marriage. Call today to find out how an attorney can assist you.

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