Find Mediators Near You:

What the Statistics Tell Us About Divorce and Custody Mediation

A recent Custody X Change study found that 93 percent of divorcing parents tried an alternative dispute resolution method – often more than once. Slightly more than half of all respondents used mediation, making it the most popular ADR method. What can we infer about mediation in family law cases based on these statistics?

Cost may be a barrier to trying ADR methods.

Fewer low-income respondents used an ADR method than their middle- or high-income counterparts (82 percent compared to 97 percent). This division among income brackets points to the possibility that lower-income parents are less likely to try mediation because of the cost.

While many courts offer free mediation, parents may be unaware of the programs or may have already exhausted the usually-limited time allotted. The cost – whether actual or perceived – may dissuade parents with less disposable income from trying mediation.

Using an ADR method may result in a more positive co-parenting relationship.

We can also see a possible correlation between ADR methods and how well parents get along. 

Forty-eight percent of middle to high-income parents claim to get along “very well” or “extremely well” with their former spouse, compared to 30 percent of low-income parents. Due to their greater participation in ADR, it’s possible that using ADR methods contributed to the positive relationships of higher-income respondents.

Overall, parents who used ADR were almost twice as likely to rate their relationship highly following the divorce. Parents who are on good terms tend to have healthy co-parenting relationships.

ADR may increase the chances of parents having joint custody

The study found that high-income parents are more likely to have joint custody than low-income parents. This could possibly tie to their greater participation in ADR methods – and their higher rate of hiring an attorney.

Out of 778 people that got joint physical custody, 421 (54%) used mediation and 36 (5%) used no ADR.

When both parents are fit and able to get along, joint custody is viewed by many experts as the best custody arrangement. Children who have two active parents in their lives tend to fare better than those who do not.

Having an attorney may increase the likelihood of a settlement.

While it is a common belief that attorneys ramp up contention between parents, the study found that 86 percent of cases where both parents have an attorney settle. This is a significant difference from the rate of settlement when neither parent has an attorney (71 percent) and when only one parent has an attorney (63 percent).

Attorneys are helpful not only in litigation but also in the mediation process. They can provide moral support to their clients, ensure their rights are protected and help them get the best outcome for themselves and their child.


Ben Coltrin

Ben Coltrin was 21 years old when he quit his job to create the Custody X Change software, which helps parents track their custody schedules, create parenting plans, keep tabs on their child's expenses, and more. Nearly 20 years later, he loves sharing his child custody knowledge and improving the… MORE

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


Reading For Stretch

From Of Seeds and Sowers, NAICR's distinguished newsletter that includes current programs, projects and tele-classes, as well as humor and inspiration. Visit the site to learn more about the work...

By Barbara Ashley Phillips

Engineering Peace – Achieving the promise of mediation in the world’s most difficult conflicts

Author information, originally the first 4 article footnotes, is provided below. Achieving the promise of mediation in conflicts that threaten the stability of societies and economies is one of the...

By Irena Vanenkova, Michael Leathes, Nadja Alexander, Tina Monberg

Southern Maryland CMC’s Support Conversations on Race and Privilege

Guest bloggers, Vicki and Dusty Rhoades are Mediators and Trainers for the Community Mediation Centers of Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties, Maryland.The Community Mediation Centers of Calvert and St. Mary’s...

By Dan Simon, Dusty and Vicky Rhoades