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Mediating high-conflict divorce may not be impossible

We have observed in previous posts that the use of mediation to sort out issues in a Pennsylvania divorce can present challenges. Because the process requires a willingness on the part of both parties to approach resolving disputed family law matters with an attitude of cooperation, mediation might not be for everyone.

Experts generally agree that one indicator of when this form of alternative dispute resolution might not be advisable is when one of the spouses has a high-conflict personality. That is, if one spouse finds myriad ways to put up roadblocks to settlement and seems bent on putting things on a track to litigation, mediation might be fruitless. But, before dismissing the idea entirely, it might be worth stepping back to consider some "ifs."

Establishing a structured process

Those with depth of experience in mediation and ADR know that it's crucial for the individuals involved to enter the process with the right attitude. They also know, however, that establishing a productive environment in which the negotiations can occur is equally important. To that end, here are questions to consider in determining whether mediation might work in a toxic divorce situation.

  • Does the prospective mediator have experience enforcing a structured process?
  • Is he or she prepared to establish an agenda and help both parties stick to it?
  • Will the mediator encourage involvement by attorneys for the two parties?
  • Is the mediator candidate willing to minimize face-to-face encounters of the parties by meeting with each side separately?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then mediation might be a viable option – even in a high-conflict divorce – especially if reducing expenses is considered a priority.

Source:, "Toxic Divorce? Forget the Hazmat Suit and Do This Instead," Bari Zell Weinberger, Oct. 20, 2017

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