Does Divorce Mediation Work Even In High-Conflict Situations?

By Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce mediation lawyers; California Divorce MediatorsThe final decision of divorce comes after a long and challenging process. However, if you have made up your mind regarding divorce, you will need a comprehensive plan to guide you towards getting a smooth separation. Mediation can be helpful when you are seeking a divorce.

Mediation: The basics

Mediation is a step in the process of divorce wherein a third (neutral) party will step in to facilitate settlement negotiations. It is important to remember that the mediator does not hold any authority with regards to the resolution. Both parties have absolute control over whether or not an agreement is reached. Even if the parties fail to reach an agreement in the process of mediation, they will continue to retain the right to get their case heard in the court.

There are situations when your divorce case involves a high-conflict partner and you may feel that the only way to deal with to get a lawyer and fight it out. However, statistics reveal that such an approach typically causes increased conflict while offering minimally satisfying results.

High-structured mediation models

For high-conflict divorce cases, you need to select a mediator who has the capability to provide a highly structured process. You will have to question the mediator about the process that he/she is using in cases of high-conflict divorce. Remember, the objective is to look for a mediator with skills, strategies, and experience which are specially designed for managing high levels of conflict.


Do not turn mediation sessions into opportunities for ‘venting’. In fact, you must have already done all the “venting” and “reacting” earlier and they have not helped either you or your spouse.

A caucus is essentially a private meeting set with the mediator and a useful way of blowing off steam and regaining composure without damaging any part of the negotiations. In such sessions, a mediator has the opportunity to give you some lessons on how to discuss issues which are important to you in a manner that could be heard.

Parenting issues

In high-conflict divorce cases, couples often fight or argue about details related to visitation, children-related information exchange, and parenting approaches. In such situations, there is a need to modify the parenting plans or approaches in a way that minimizes the exposure of the children to the conflict. For example, when both parents know how to drive, then they should drop the children to one another’s home instead of having the other parent coming to pick the kids up.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.