Mediation is gaining ground over traditional divorce, and there are three main reasons. First, the cost of working out the divorce settlement can be extremely high. Second, settlements often do not last, and third, a bitter divorce takes a toll on the parties in terms of emotional trauma.

Many couples headed for divorce court are taking a detour toward mediation as a less contentious and much more satisfactory way of ending their marriage.

1. Costs of traditional litigation

In the United States, couples are spending in the neighborhood of $2 billion a year on divorce. There are lawyers to pay, court costs, expert witnesses and other fees to tack on. In fact, it is not unusual for a contested divorce to cost $60,000 to $70,000. It is much less costly for parties to meet with a neutral mediator and work out a satisfactory divorce agreement.

2. Making a settlement last

When the divorcing parties work out a settlement rather than having the court do so, the ultimate agreement is much more likely to last. Issues may arise, and one party or the other may erupt in anger, but one of the tasks the mediator has is to help funnel that anger into the business of forming the divorce agreement. When finished, the settlement is likely to last much longer than a year, which is the average duration today, because both parties contributed and prepared the agreement according to their wishes.

3. A more civilized approach

Divorce is not easy for anybody. One of the major disappointments with traditional litigation is that because the atmosphere can be so hostile, people often end up hating each other. However, the mediation process allows couples to have a more amicable parting of the ways. Older people, especially, who have been married for many years want to be able to have a civilized, post-divorce relationship so that they can still interact peaceably around their grown children and other family members. Along with the cost savings and more durable settlement possibilities, mediation is a process that can help that happen.