Can Divorce Mediation Lead to Reconciliation?

couple working on marital reconciliation

Not long ago, Soompi reported that the popular South Korean actress and K-pop singer, Hwang Jung Eum, had filed for divorce from her golfer/businessman husband, Lee Young Don. According to a July 9th report in allkpop, however, the couple attended divorce mediation and are now reconciling. This is happy news, and it may lead other people to wonder if they too could achieve reconciliation through mediation.

When reading about marriage or divorce in another country, keep in mind that laws between countries can differ. In fact, even laws between different states in the United States sometimes differ, although differences tend to be less extreme. In some countries, including South Korea, divorce mediation generally includes an initial process of attempted marital reconciliation. Whether or not this leads to more marriages surviving or not is beyond the scope of this blog. What we can say, however, is that reconciliation and divorce settlement require very different mind sets.

In the United States, couples who are fairly certain that divorce is the next step can go directly to mediation. Those who are less sure will usually be better served by starting with marriage counseling, also known as couples therapy. That being said, in the normal course of mediation, a divorce mediator will usually ask a participating couple, as a preliminary matter, whether or not they believe there is any hope of saving the marriage. Many of the techniques that mediators guide their clients through in pursuit of an amicable settlement, such as practicing effective and honest communication and trying to see things from their partner’s perspective, are the same techniques that would facilitate reconciliation. Some mediators also offer marital reconciliation sessions, but those that do make a clear distinction between the two services.

Mediation, Counseling, Therapy, Coaching – What are the Differences?

Not only is it easy to confuse divorce mediation with marital therapy, a couple of other procedures also sound similar. If you have ever heard of divorce counseling or divorce coaching, you may find these different terms bewildering. To help clear things up, here are short descriptions of each of these services:

Divorce Mediation

Divorce mediation is an alternative to court litigation designed to provide couples with a friendlier, less costly way of reaching a marital settlement. When divorcing spouses decide to mediate, it means that a neutral third party, called a mediator, will be there to facilitate discussions and help the parties find the best possible solutions to difficult issues. Mediation is for couples who are ready to work on a legal marital settlement agreement. This means discussing things like property division, post-divorce parenting, and spousal or child support. If you want to learn more about divorce mediation, you can check out the many resources on this site.

Marriage Counseling or Couples Therapy

A marriage counselor, or marital therapist, is a licensed professional specifically trained to help couples navigate their marital relationship. Perhaps you have discussed divorce with your spouse but at least one of you is not ready. In that case, the best next step is probably marriage counseling—also known as couples counseling, couples therapy, or marital therapy. A marital therapist will help you rebuild intimacy and resolve issues like financial or parenting conflict in your marriage. You can learn more about the differences between mediation and therapy here: Marriage Counseling and Divorce Mediation.

Divorce Counseling

Unfortunately, couples in marriage counseling sometimes decide that they will be better off apart than together. If this happens, the therapist can continue to work with them to help them reach an amicable divorce. Sometimes couples already know they are heading for divorce but have a strong desire to remain friends. This is often for the sake of their children or for other family members or close friends. Going to divorce counseling before starting mediation allows such couples to focus on transitioning their relationship from marriage to friendship before getting into legal issues. It is important for couples choosing this route to realize that this kind of relationship counseling is very different from either legal advice or guidance through the process of divorce.

Divorce Coaching

Divorce coaches help their clients navigate the process of divorce. Coaching can be helpful at any phase of a divorce, but it tends to be particularly helpful before mediation.  Pre-mediation coaching can help a person reduce their anxiety regarding the mediation process, rehearse good communication techniques, and learn how to formulate effective proposals and counterproposals. A divorce coach will often role-play with a client to help them learn how to avoid reactivity, maintain a focus on facts and logic, and field unanticipated issues. Coaching may be provided by mediators, attorneys, or mental health professionals. Regardless of the professional background of the provider, the focus should be on teaching skills that will help a client get through a divorce.

If you have difficulty with assertive communication, anger management, or anxiety, you may benefit from pre-mediation coaching. It can be particularly helpful in situations where there is a pre-existing power imbalance between the spouses. You can learn more here: Could you Benefit from Pre-Mediation Coaching?

Individual Counseling or Therapy

Most people know what individual therapy is, but they may not know that it is sometimes the best place to start if a divorce might be on the horizon. You may want to consider this option if none of the others seem right for you, or if there are certain conditions that apply to your personal situation. For example, marriage counseling does not tend to be a good solution in situations involving domestic violence or substance abuse, or when one spouse refuses to address his or her own contributions to marital problems. Mediation also is less likely to succeed in such situations, at least without additional safeguards. Individual therapy can provide you with much-needed support and can help you work out your feelings about divorce before you approach your partner with the option. It can also help you focus on resolving deep-seated personal issues either before or after divorce.

Are you wondering whether or not divorce mediation is right for you? One of our caring and experienced mediators can help you decide. Contact us today for an initial consultation.