Ending a marriage is almost never accomplished without high levels of emotional turmoil and expense. In the last twenty years, the Wisconsin bar and judicial system have developed an alternative process that may significantly reduce both the emotional and monetary cost of a divorce. The process is called “divorce mediation.”

Wisconsin has two types of mediation. A court will order the parties to engage in mediation concerning child custody and placement issues before it will permit the parties to proceed to trial. Other issues, such as property division, alimony and child support, cannot be discussed in a court-ordered mediation unless the issues related directly to the issues of custody and placement and unless the parties have agreed in writing to consider other issues.

In a private mediation, the parties are free to put any relevant item on the table for discussion. The role of the mediator is the same: to guide the parties through a mutual review of their differences and to suggest compromise solutions that may help the couple resolve their disagreements.

Regardless of whether the mediation is private or has been ordered by the court, the mediator is required to be neutral, to hear each party explain their concerns, and to avoid taking sides. Many people fear mediation because they believe that the mediator may not be favorable to their position. This fear usually disappears when the person learns that the law requires the mediator to be neutral.

Also, the fact remains that neither party to mediation can be ordered against their will to take an action or refrain from an action. The goal of mediation is to help the parties reach a mutual agreement that each will accept as the basis for resolving their disputes. Winning or losing is not the issue in a mediation.