When Pennsylvania couples can't come to an amicable agreement over the terms of their divorce, mediation may be a way to reach an accord while avoiding having the issues decided by a judge. A mediator is an impartial third party who listens to both sides, and then works with the couple on finding agreement on terms that, hopefully, meet both of their needs.
Picking a mediator is the first step to take. Trust is very important here, as divorcing spouses need someone who they believe will help them make important decisions. Areas they may need guidance in can vary with each divorcing couple, but common issues include division of property and debt, and, if the couple has children, child custody and visitation.
A mediator should have sufficient education and experience to guide the couple through the divisive issues and should focus his or her practice primarily, if not exclusively, on these types of matters. It's helpful, too, if the mediator has a legal background since some of the issues may require an explanation of applicable law. However, the mediator is impartial and is not there to offer legal advice, and as such, each spouse should have separate legal representation.
A mediated divorce may not be for everyone. If the couple can agree to terms on their own, then mediation isn't necessary. In some cases, the parties' respective family law attorneys can assist in negotiating an agreement that covers most of the applicable issues with one or two sticking points. In such an event, mediation could be appropriate in resolving these remaining issues.