What’s your idea of divorce? Chances are you have heard a horror story from a friend or family member. While it is true that divorce can be a stressful experience no matter your situation, it doesn’t have to involve high-stakes disagreements, drawn-out court appearances or argumentative lawyers. Instead, mediation is one option couples can pursue as a method of alternative dispute resolution in divorce.

What is mediation and is it right for you? Let’s look at the mediation process and what situations might be right to pursue it.

What is divorce mediation?

Many people view divorce as an adversarial process with each spouse hiring separate attorneys to argue over assets and child custody. Mediation is different. In mediation, couples use one attorney as a third-party guide and mediator in discussions over important elements of your divorce like child custody and asset division.

The goal of mediation is to allow couples a hands-on legal experience that reduces costs and hostility both in the divorce process and in life after marriage. It also allows each spouse access to other personal resources in preparing for life after marriage. In addition to an attorney, your mediator will also allow you to speak with many professionals like a relationship counselor, financial advisor, friends and clergy during the process.

Is it right for me?

The benefits of mediation make it a straightforward and practical process for many couples, but it is not right for everyone. Often, mediation is right for couples who are willing to work together as they maintain some sort of relationship after divorce. For example, parents with younger kids who will hold joint custody and make mutual decisions can use mediation effectively.

It’s not for everyone

Because mediation requires both couples to participate and work toward an agreement mutually, it may not work in every situation. For example, if one spouse earns a significantly higher income than the other – or you are anticipating significant disagreement about assets or child custody – it may be best to use other methods in divorce.

…but it’s worth a try

Despite the potential for obstacles, many couples can have a relatively low-stress divorce and come to a settlement out of court through mediation. In fact, you are encouraged by local courts to try to work it out before pursuing a more adversarial approach. Is mediation right for you? It’s a question worth asking.