Family Mediation: Research Facts

I. Who Chooses to Mediate?

  • Those who voluntarily agree to mediate generally have higher socio-economic status (education level, occupation status, income) than those who do not mediate. (Pearson (1989): 13)
  • Those who agree to mediate report better spousal communication patterns than those who do not agree to mediate. (Pearson (1989): 13)

  • Data does not support the view that those who choose to mediate are the couples with “easier” divorce cases, or the couples who are more
    communicative with their spouses. (Kelly (1989): 267)

  • Marital conflict and poor communication, non-mutuality in the divorce
    decision, and strained cooperation do not appear to act as barriers to selecting mediation. (Kelly (1989): 269)

  • Attorney support of the mediation processes influences parties to agree to mediation. (Pearson (1989): 14)

  • Those who choose mediation report significantly higher levels of divorce-related depression, guilt, and stress than those who do not choose mediation.
    (Kelly (1989): 269)

  • Men are significantly more positive about beginning the mediation process than women. (Kelly (1989): 272)

  • Whereas men’s willingness to mediate is related to their recognition of a poor marriage, women’s willingness to mediate is shaped by divorce-related anger they hold toward their spouse, their view of spousal integrity, and their perceived level of cooperation. (Kelly (1989): 273)

II. The Mediation Process

  • The factors during the mediation that were best able to predict settlement and willingness to recommend mediation are:

    (a) parties’ perception of the mediator’s ability to provide insights into their own feelings.

    (b) the mediator’s ability to aid parties in understanding the feelings of children and ex-spouses. (Pearson (1989): 24)

  • When parties produce complaint responses, mediators adopt a less (or non-)
    confrontational intervention style. (Greatbach (1994): 94)

  • Back and forth blaming and fault-finding often become the central
    conversational activities of disputants in divorce mediation. (Tracy (1994):
    119)

  • Children can escape the negative consequences of parental conflict when they
    are not caught in it by their parents, when their parents avoid direct aggressive
    expressions of their conflict in front of the child, or when they use compromise
    styles of conflict resolution. It is important to explore the extent to which the
    child is compromised by parental behavior which enlist the child in the parent’s
    conflict agenda. (Kelly (1991): 2)

  • Mediators establish their impartiality to each party by diffusing negative
    comments of one party toward another. (Tracy (1994): 119)

III. Outcome and Satisfaction

  • Research on mediator qualifications has failed to show a correlation between
    the mediator’s education and rough indicators of performance, such as
    settlement rates or satisfaction by the parties. (Pearson (1988): 435-441)

  • Mediation outcomes are affected by three elements:

    (a) the skill and behavior of the mediator

    (b) the characteristics of the disputants

    (c) the nature of the dispute (Pearson (1989): 23-24)

  • Disputants consider mediation less damaging to relationships with former
    spouses than traditional courtroom proceedings (Pearson (1989): 22-23)

  • Mediation appears to have a very limited ability to alter basic relationship
    patterns or promote cooperation between divorcing parties. (Pearson (1989):
    23)

  • The pre-existing characteristics of disputes that best defined when disputants
    would settle and recommend mediation are: (a) the duration of the dispute; (b)
    the intensity of the dispute; and (c) the quality of the relationship with the ex-spouse. More recent and less severe disputes were most likely to be resolved,
    as were disputes between parties with at least a modest level of
    communications an cooperation. (Pearson (1989): 24)

  • Voluntary participation in mediation does not appear to produce higher
    settlement rates than mandated participation in mediation. (Pearson (1989):
    14-15)

  • No evidence exists that voluntary versus mandatory mediation affects user
    satisfaction. (Pearson (1989): 15)

  • Mediation is effective in generating agreements on custody and visitation
    issues. (Pearson (1989): 18)

  • Mediation agreements relating to custody and visitation issues are no less
    stable than agreements generated in lawyer negotiations and court hearings.
    (Pearson (1989): 18)

  • No conclusive evidence exists on the compliance and relitigation patterns
    associated with mediation and adjudicated agreements. (Pearson (1989): 21)

  • Users find that mediation identifies the real issues in a dispute. (Pearson
    (1989): 19)

  • Users find that mediation is less rushed and less “superficial” than courtroom
    proceedings. (Pearson (1989): 19)

  • Parties who terminate the mediation process before reaching agreement on all
    divorce-related issues are not easily distinguished from those who complete
    mediation with an agreement. (Kelly (1989): 275)

  • Of those who reached agreement in mediation, two-thirds of both men and
    women agreed that spousal support was fair, and more than two-thirds of both
    men and women were satisfied with the division of property. (Kelly (1989):
    279)

  • In divorced families, when mothers used negative dispute resolution styles,
    both mother-child and father-child relationships were poorer compared to
    families where mothers used cooperative strategies. (Kelly (1991): 1, citing
    Camera and Resnick)

  • Women report that the mediation process helped them assume more
    responsibility in managing their personal affairs than did men, and women had
    greater confidence in their ability to stand up for themselves as a result of the
    process. (Kelly (1989): 279)

Sources

David Greatbach and Robert Dingwall, The Interactive Construction of
Interventions by Divorce Mediators, in New Directions in Mediation:
Communication Research and Perspectives 84-109 (Joseph P. Folger and Tricia S.
Jones eds., 1994)

Joan B. Kelly, Conflict and Post-Divorce Adjustment: A Closer Look, State Bar
of California Family Law News, Fall, 1991, at 1

Joan B. Kelly and Lynn L. Gigly, Divorce Mediation: Characteristics of Clients
and Outcomes, in Mediation Research 263-284 (Kenneth Kressel and Dean G.
Pruitt eds., 1989)

Jessica Pearson and Nancy Thoennes, Divorce Mediation: Reflections on a
Decade of Research, in Mediation Research 9-30 (Kenneth Kressel and Dean G.
Pruitt eds., 1989)

Jessica Pearson and Nancy Thoennes, Divorce Mediation Research Results, In
Divorce Mediation: Theory and Practice 429, 435-441 (Jay Folberg and Ann
Milne eds., 1988)

Karen Tracy and Anna Spadlin, Talking Like a Mediator: Conversational Moves
of Experienced Divorce Mediators, in New Directions in Mediation:
Communication Research and Perspectives 110-134 (Joseph P. Folger and Tricia
S. Jones eds., 1994)

                        author

Forrest (Woody) Mosten

Forrest (Woody) Mosten Forrest (Woody) Mosten has been in private practice as a mediator since 1979 and currently is practicing mediation and collaborative law 100% online serving clients throughout the world. Woody is a founding partner of the Mosten-Guthrie Online Training Academy for Mediators and Collaborative Professionals. He is Adjunct Professor… MORE >

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