Divorce with a mediator - Divorce by mutual agreement

Divorce with a mediator - Divorce by mutual agreement | Elite Mediátor Iroda

    Dear Reader!

    In this first part of my series of posts – on the above topic – allow me to share with you, a true story of my own experience about what is known in everyday language as an "ugly divorce". It will be about how did a mediator divorced when mediation did not yet exist in Hungary. In this light, allow me to present the role of mediation in order to let divorce end up in a mutual agreement.

    You can get answers to two of the questions and dilemmas that naturally arise in divorce situations:

    What does it mean to divorce by mutual consent and what does it mean without it?

    Can all divorces be mediated? Is your case mediable?

    Let's begin with my story.

    It is the late 1990s in Hungary, when mediation was still an unknown concept.  Although its appearance in our country was linked to the change of regime, the law on mediation was only enacted in 2002. It can be seen that even today we cannot speak of its general practice, despite the fact that it is becoming more and more widely known.

    In our case it was not about divorce, as we were not married. Nor did the 10 years in question clearly fall into the category of domestic partnership, but we did have to decide on the custody of our common child at the time of the separation. We could have decided together to keep joint custody, but we did not. Instead, after verbal threats - "I will sue you for custody", "I will take the child away from you" - the father filed a lawsuit on the issue of parental custody - at the time called a "Child Custody Lawsuit" - seeking sole custody for himself. At that time I experienced the (not at all pleasant) details of the "ugly divorce". Therefore I know from my own experience what it means to go through such a procedure in one's daily life, lasting up to years. In our case, it lasted for nearly a year and a half (which is relatively short compared to cases that drag on for several years) and ended when the father refused to undergo psychological examination.

    What does "ugly divorce" mean?

    Lack of respect for the other party, witnesses, a series of psychological and expert examinations, uncontrolled emotional expressions, mud throwing, fighting, trying to defeat the other at all costs. Seemingly this is all about the child's best interests, but the real story is about the parents, their grievances, desire for revenge and punishment. In this situation, there is no common agreement or individual and joint responsibility.

    Divorce without mutual agreement means that the parties are unable to objectively assess the situation, putting their emotions and grievances in the background beside concentrating on their individual perceived/real interests and leaving the decision on their future life to outside forces: to the court.

    What happens after the divorce?

    One party who experiences the judgment as a loser will be less willing to abide by the rules. In the absence of a functional parental relationship, negative feelings, anger and dissatisfaction will become permanent, with a clear negative impact on contact with the child.

    What does divorce by mutual consent mean and how can a mediator help?

    It is important to be clear: the marriage is dissolved by the court, there is no way to avoid this. The path to divorce - the number of hearings preceding the divorce and what happens in the hearings - is that the parties can control.

    Getting dicorced by involving a mediator is a process based on dialogue between the parties, and the mediator helps them to establish and maintain this dialogue, keeping it on an objective basis. The mediator provides a framework for listening to and respecting each other. The parties work together to reach a common understanding.

    According to clinical psychologists, custody belongs to the parent who can show respect to the other parent in a situation of separation, even in the midst of disagreement.

    What happens after the divorce?

    In the event of a consensual divorce, there is a greater chance that the spousal relationship will be able to transform into a parental relationship, i.e. to cooperate and make joint decisions, which is best interests of the children. High emotional intensity may already be significantly reduced in the mediation process.

    Can all divorces be mediated?

    I am oftenly asked by clients with similar questions and dilemmas:

    • "Our case is so special, I don't know if mediation can work for us."
    • "We can't bear each other's company."
    • "We are unable listening to each other."
    • "For her/him, the only deal is if I accept what she/he wants."
    • "I don't think mediation can work in our case, our relationship is so strained."

    Before I answer the basic question - whether all divorce disputes can be settled by involving a mediator - allow me to return to my own true story for a moment.

    Ten years ago during mediator training my teacher – whom I still consider my master – asked me: if there had been mediation at the time, do I think we (me and my husband) could have reached a settlement. Thinking back to the other party's out of line, particulary destructive, emotionally captivatied expressions and behaviour and also his loudly stated goal which was my complete destruction, my answer was no.

    However, if there had been an opportunity I would certainly have tried, even before the litigation phase and even when the first 'suing you for custody' threats were made.

    Based on my own history and more than 10 years of experience as a mediator, I can say with confidence that mediation can work if it is given the chance. Deciding in which cases the mediation works and in which cases doesn't is essentially up to the will of the parties.

    Getting dicorced by involving a mediator means that the parties attempt establishing a dialogue, understanding each other's position and arguments, putting the child's interests to the first place and also reaching a mutual agreement.

    If they have tried and one of the parties still does not want to reach a common understanding or does not want getting dicorced by involving a mediator, they can still fight afterwards.

    There is nothing to lose, but more to gain and during mediation – as evidenced by practice – even in angry situations, there are more chances listening to each other as we might think. 

    Blog author

    Mariann Kós


    Economist, trainer, life and business coach

    Elite Mediator Consulting Bt - managing director

    Founding member of the National Association of Win-Win Divorce and Economic Mediators