The benefits of mediation are undeniable. Mediation can help you find the best possible solution to almost any family law problem, including divorce, custody disputes, child support spousal support and property division. Mediation can save time and money. It can also help all the parties involved feel invested in a positive future after the dispute is over.

Mediation is not, however, the perfect way forward for everyone. There are circumstances that can make mediation the wrong choice.

Common Goals

Mediation works best when both parties can agree in broad strokes on what they are trying to accomplish. In a divorce, when both parties are looking to wrap up the business of marriage and move forward with their lives, mediation is likely to succeed. In child custody, when both parties are after a way to be successful co-parents, protecting and raising their kids to the best of their abilities, mediation can work wonders. When the parties do not share these goals, mediation can fail.

A Waste of Time

One of the common scenarios where mediation does not work is when one of the parties does not want to proceed at all. If your spouse doesn’t want a divorce, but you do, they have little incentive to make the process move faster or more easily. They want to drag things to a halt. In that case, mediation can allow them to waste everyone’s time before moving into the courtroom setting where the divorce decree will be handed down, whether they like it or not.

Unreasonable Requests

Mediation is also likely to fail where one or both parties are unable or unwilling to accept what the law will ultimately require. A previously uninvolved parent who insists on seeking sole custody of the children can derail mediation. Joint legal custody is strongly favored wherein the absence of domestic violence or a demonstrated inability to care for the child.

Custody is not a tool to punish your ex. It is about finding a balance that serves the best interests of the child. A parent who ignores the children’s best interests in a custody dispute is unlikely to agree with a mediator’s advice.


Family law problems have the power to dredge up a host of bad memories and wrongs both trivial and severe. Letting go of the anger, betrayal and bitterness that attend relationships gone wrong is not easy. The truth is that mediation can help the people who want it to work. If any of the parties to a mediation are not interested in an amicable, positive solution, the process may not work.

Domestic Violence

When one party feels threatened or has been subjected to violence or the threat of violence, it is difficult if not impossible to pursue an amicable resolution. Mediation requires a safe environment for the parties to work out their differences. Without that feeling of safety, mediation will fail.


If you can work together with your former partner, mediation can be a lifesaver. If either of you is not interested in collaborating, it will probably be necessary to resolve your disputes in the courtroom. If you’re unsure of which route to take, it’s likely best to first speak with an attorney.

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