Navigating Mediation: Understanding the Styles

Divorce mediation styles explained

Divorce mediator Scott Levin introduces and compares facilitative mediation, evaluative mediation and transformative mediation.

A mediator helps parties reach agreements as a neutral third-party. To resolve conflicts, there are four types of mediation styles for divorce, each with its own unique set of pros and cons. The mediation styles are evaluative, transformative, informative, and facilitative.

The success of mediation depends not just on the process, but also on how well the method fits the situation. Before choosing a mediator and type of mediation style, it’s important find a solution that aligns well with your situation and expectations. Let’s dive in and uncover the strengths and weaknesses of these styles of mediation that fit the mediation process you desire. 

Facilitative Mediation Style

Facilitative mediation aims to create a facilitative environment emphasizing the mediator’s role as impartial guide. Typically the parties and the mediator sit together in sessions, and each party communicates directly while the mediator helps each understand their own goals, the other party’s goals, and the issues in dispute.

Acting as a referee and collaboration coach, a facilitative mediator tends to take a hands-off approach, not offering opinions. Without expert advice from the mediator, the parties might feel rudderless, which might breed frustration.

Facilitative mediation works only if the parties are willing to talk honestly. Its premise is that if each party understands the specific areas of disagreement, that compromise can achieve mutually beneficial resolution. Therefore, the facilitative approach might not work in situations where open dialogue is hard.

Evaluative Mediation Style

The evaluation style of mediation is starkly different from facilitative mediation. Rather than acting as a neutral guide, the mediator takes a more hands-on approach, assessing the issues and forecasting the likely outcome if the matter were decided in litigation.

In the context of family law mediation, experienced divorce and custody attorneys assesses the issues, evaluate the merits of each party’s positions, and opines as to which is more likely to prevail. Making recommendations based on legal rights and responsibilities, and explaining the strength or weakness of each point raised by the parties, the evaluative mediator can serve as a substitute for a judge.

An evaluative approach can be effective for sophisticated couples disputing the application of law to their case. But it can certainly fall short in helping resolve interpersonal conflicts. The process might appear too formal or rigid, resulting in an uncomfortable atmosphere. Furthermore, the mediator’s recommendations might unintentionally color the proceedings, leading to a potentially unfair outcome.

When an evaluative mediation process fails, often one party questions the mediator’s impartiality. Neutrality is the key to a successful mediation but this style can leave one party feeling attacked if they are told that the points made are invalid. Once a mediator is viewed as on the other’s side, it can be very difficult to arrive at a settlement.

When considering this mediation style, you need to consider the nature of your conflict and your comfort level with a more directive approach. Are you okay with a formalized structure? Do you seek expert advice to guide your decision-making? Answering these questions can help you decide if the evaluative style is right for you.

Transformative Mediation Style

When it comes to transformative mediation, the main goal isn’t just resolution, but a shift in the relationship dynamics between the disputing parties. Transformative mediators try putting both sides on an equal playing field, so they can better understand each other’s positions and interests, and move closer towards a resolution.

A transformative style is often effective when one party fears that mediation benefits the other due to imbalance in knowledge, access to information, and sophistication. To achieve the peace and benefits of mediation, transformative mediation can help bridge the information and sophistication gap to allow the divorce to proceed on equal footing.

Transformative mediation is an option for individuals who are reluctant to mediate due to their perceived inferior positions. It is designed to equalize the parties’ negotiating power in a supported setting in order to resolve a legal dispute. However, don’t be quick to label this as the most ideal solution for all conflicts. 

Since both parties have to commit to the transformation process, this method can take a long time. The party with the power also has to concede to the imbalance and without this acknowledgement it can often fail. 

This style emphasizes empathy and mutual understanding. This could be a challenging feat if one party dominates the other. In these situations, the transformative style may not yield the best outcome. You should keep this in mind when deciding if this is the right approach for your conflict.

Making an Informed Choice

Selecting the appropriate mediation style hinges on a trifecta of elements – the nature of your conflict, your comfort and expectations, and the expertise of your chosen mediator. Understanding the various styles of mediation can help you make an informed decision. So take your time, examine your situation, ask questions, and listen to your instincts before making the final call. Remember, the mediation journey is as crucial as the destination – resolution.

Scott Levin Attorney Mediator 

Meet Scott Levin, the heart behind peaceful resolutions and Chief Peacekeeper™ at San Diego Divorce Mediation and Family Law. As a trusted mediator, Scott empowers individuals to navigate divorce and family legal matters with dignity, offering a path to resolution that prioritizes harmony and mutual understanding. Join Scott on the journey to a peaceful and empowered divorce experience.

If you or someone you know has a family law dispute, don’t rush to court. Give Scott a call first. Schedule a free consultation online now or call Scott at (858) 255-1321.