Separation and divorce are among the most distressing and disruptive events that individuals and families can go through. They are extremely emotional processes which involve making decisions and reaching agreements on sensitive issues which have a direct, long-term impact on families. Making decisions regarding your children’s upbringing, calculating maintenance costs or dividing assets and liabilities justly can be very difficult under these circumstances. Objectivity and problem-solving are often dominated by emotion and as a result, couples resort to litigation. Litigation can be expensive, emotionally draining, time consuming and have a long-lasting negative impact on family relationships.
Divorce mediation is an alternative to litigation. It is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) designed to resolve disputes pre, during or post separation or divorce. The process empowers participants to shape their own agreements regarding parenting plans, maintenance calculations and division of assets and liabilities. Because they are shaped by the parents themselves, they are typically more fair, practical and sustainable. These agreements are suited to meet the needs of each family’s unique circumstances. When children are involved they are developed around the children’s best interests.
As an accredited family and divorce mediator, apart from where there is substance abuse, domestic violence or major power imbalances in the relationship, I am convinced that mediation is a better option than litigation to solve disagreements. Mediation saves time and money, reduces emotional turmoil and significantly improves the chances of effective co-parenting. Mediation achieves these outcomes by increasing awareness, improving communication and empowering the parties to take control of their own future.
In my experience a holistic approach to managing the separation or divorce process is ideal. The reason for this is that the focus of mediation is not solely the termination of the marriage or relationship. Mediation focuses on the entire family, the continued relationship of the parties and how to best prepare the parties to anticipate and manage future scenarios. Therefore; in some instances, the process may include the brief involvement of psychologists or social-workers and, to formalise agreements, an attorney.
Divorce mediation has five underlying principles that will help you better understand the mediation process.
- Firstly, the process is voluntary. Both parties need to agree to enter into an agreement to mediate. Either party can also stop the process at any time.
- Secondly, mediation is confidential, providing a safe space for parties to communicate. What is discussed in mediation is without prejudice, therefore, cannot be used in court. This fosters more open dialogue which in turn can lead to a clearer understanding of the issues and result in more creative and flexible solutions.
- Thirdly, the process is empowering. Why? Because empowerment is synonymous with taking responsibility and this is what the mediation process encourages and allows parties to do. It recognises that nobody is better placed to create a family’s future than the family itself.
- The fourth principle is objectivity. A mediator is an independent, neutral third-party who conducts the mediation. The mediator’s role is to help both parties identify, negotiate and come to a mutually-acceptable agreement on the various issues highlighted by the parties themselves.
- Lastly, the mediation process is unique. You determine what issues need to be addressed, you decide on the solution, you control the outcome and as a result, you are the decision makers for your family’s future.
As Nelson Mandela so eloquently said “One effect of sustained conflict is to narrow our vision of what is possible. Time and time again, conflicts are resolved through shifts that were unimaginable at the start”.
Amani Mediation is based in Rivonia, Johannesburg and specialise in Family and Divorce Mediation. We employ a holistic approach to Divorce Mediation, working closely with a network of psychologists, social workers, financial advisors and attorneys who share our philosophy.