The Wall Street Journal recently had an article discussing divorce. While most of the focus of the article is on collaborative divorce and the impact of divorce on children, mediation does get a couple of positive mentions.
Constance Ahrons’s 20-year look at 173 children from 98 divorced families showed that when divorced parents were able to maintain a civil and at least minimally cooperative relationship with each other, the children experienced no long-term problems associated with the divorce. But when parents remained in conflict or totally disengaged from each other, their children continued to be distressed even 20 years later.
The article also mentions that there is ample evidence that we can increase the incidence of “good” divorces. In a 12-year follow-up of couples randomly assigned to either mediation or litigated divorce, Robert Emery and his colleagues found that as little as five to six hours of mediation had powerful long-term effects. Parents who took part in mediation settled their disputes in half the time of parents who used litigation, and they were much more likely, even 12 years later, to jointly discuss children’s discipline, moral training, school performance and vacation plans. Nonresidential parents with mediated divorces maintained much more contact with their children than those who had litigated.
The average cost of a mediated divorce is less than $7,000 and of a collaborative divorce less than $20,000. This compares with nearly $27,000 for a divorce negotiated by rival lawyers and about $78,000 for a fully litigated divorce.
And it’s not just the financial toll. When a parent maximizes his or her emotional position by undermining a child’s respect for the other parent, this “victory” carries long-term costs. Researcher Paul Amato notes that children who report being put in the middle of their parents’ problems are less likely to be close to either parent as they age.