Choosing mediation over litigation in the event of a divorce

Many couples who choose to divorce, may find themselves in a somewhat diminished situation when the proceedings are all over.   Although some need the expertise of lawyers, often well trained mediators can provide a somewhat cheaper alternative when discussing division of assets, maintenance and the compilation of a parenting plan. 

 Divorce mediation provides a less costly and more civil alternative to separation or divorce.

  • Solutions sought in mediation take into account the needs of all family members and aims for a win-win situation to an often emotion filled negotiation.
  • As both parties are involved in the decisions, they are more likely to uphold their agreements.
  • It is a future orientated process, with little focus on the past and full focus on the present and future.

The more important aspects of mediation are:

  • It is non-adversarial – both parties are fully involved with any decisions made
  • It is mutual – if there is not mutual agreement, the process does not work
  • It is empowering – Each member controls all the decisions of his or her life. Usually drawn from the Psychology and Legal Profession, trained mediators ensure that the parties remain focused, confidentiality is maintained and communication remains positive. They assist with the exploration of alternative solutions, while providing up to date information and moving the process to a fair outcome.

Mediation is said to be successful if:

  • There is full disclosure of all relevant facts
  • The outcome meets the joint and individual needs of all parties involved
  • There are no victims as a result of the agreement
  • Channels of communication have been open and direct
  • The parties have made empowered decisions and demonstrated negotiation skills.
  • The process is unhurried and the mediators draw up an agenda reflecting the concerns of both parties.

Stage one:

Initial contact, explanation of the process and creating trust, explaining and setting ground rules and contracting for mediation.  The couple will sign a full agreement to mediate at this stage and an agenda will be set for future sessions.

Stage two:

The agenda will be agreed upon and relevant information, such as proof of income and assets will be collected.  Often a child interview will be conducted at this stage (by a qualified counsellor) to ascertain how the children understand the process of divorce and they are also given an opportunity to express their wishes.

Stage three:

The parties involved will clarify their positions and be guided into generating options.

Stage four:

Here the parties involved negotiate and make decisions.  These decisions are not binding until a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed.

Stage five:

The process culminates with the writing up, and signing of, the Memorandum of Understanding and a Parenting Plan.  Having agreed on all decisions, the parties are then free to take this to an attorney of their choice to be converted into a final divorce document and to legally end the marriage.

Mediation is therefore, voluntary, self-empowering, goal directed, non-adversarial, mutual, and confidential and provides a cost effective way of ensuring that all parties concerned can separate with the confidence that an optimal agreement has been reached.  Parties may return to mediation at any time to made amendments to the parenting plan or maintenance agreement knowing that they have a means of problem solving for the future.

Further information can be obtained from:

Carol Nader. 0117873486

The South African Association of Mediators website (SAAM).


John Haynes (1989): A guide to Divorce Mediation: Haynes Mediation Associates.

Jacqueline B Meyerowitz (1995): Unisa Department of Social Work, Study Guide 2, Marriage Guidance and Counselling. 1995.  Revised July 2010


True happiness is much more than just a burst of dopamine – it is a jumble of positive feelings and is often described as a sense of peace and a feeling of contentment.  A sort of “wanting what we have feeling”.   Not everybody is born with a “sunny” personality, but we all can learn to bring more meaning and satisfaction into our lives.

Often clients sit opposite me and ask the same question “what can I do to be happy”?  This question and the feeling of helplessness it evokes in me have led me to do some research on happy people.  Here are some of the facts that research shows:

  • Happy people allow pleasure and purpose to work together.  Happy people know that enjoying momentary indulgences such as playing with a baby, vegging out on the couch, or reading a great book is important to living a satisfying life.  They do take time out in their busy schedule to “sharpen the saw”.
  • Happy people opt for seeing the forest but not the trees.  It is said that satisfied people are less critical and detail oriented.  They tend to be open to strangers and are uncritical of others.  In short they don’t overthink things.  Paying attention to detail is good but “sweating the small stuff” often is emotionally draining.   Happy people may frequently possess a “devil-may-care” attitude about their performance – as concentrating on the minutiae can lead to decision paralysis.
  • Happy people view anxiety as an optimal state.  To sustain happiness is not only doing the things that you love, but pushing the boundaries, to grow and adventure beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone.  To put it simply, happy people are curious.  Although wondering into the realm of “not knowing” can be anxiety producing – curious people know that sometimes being out of your comfort zone is the most direct route to learning new lessons and gaining a sense of mastery.  Happy people opt for the familiar loved routines and having novel experiences.
  • Happy people celebrate others’ good fortune.  In the workplace, social support has been found to be the biggest predictor of happiness at work. The happiest people share in the good fortune of others wholeheartedly, and bask in the glow when their own achievements are reflected back at them.    Research has found that discussing a positive experience with a responsive friend actually changes the memory of the event.  Equally important is that you will feel uplifted by your friend’s positive experience. Happy people have the ability to listen mindfully and put their own concerns/emotions aside.
  • Happy people don’t hide from negative emotions.  They view them as part of life, confront them head on – either standing up for themselves, letting it “roll off their backs “– or accepting responsibility and making some changes to their behaviour.
  • People do differ in their happiness matrices – some will find happiness in social belonging and doing things for others – while others prize a sense of mastery and achievement.  But all agree that a life well lived is more than just feeling up – it is a mixture of feeling content, occasional sadness,  a sense of purpose, playfulness and psychological flexibility, and includes control over one’s life, a sense of belonging and feeling loved.

In short, to visualize a happy person’s stance, one foot will be rooted in the present, with mindful appreciation of what one has – and the other foot reaching for the yet-to-be uncovered sources of meaning in the future.

Sources and further reading: 

“Your best life now”  Joel Osteen (2004)

“Happiness” Richard O Connor (2009)

“The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People”.  Stephen Covey. (1989)

“What happy people do differently” Psychology Today. 8.8.2013