While splitting up with your spouse may be inevitable, you still have choices in how the relationship is dissolved. For many couples, mediating their divorce is preferable to litigating it in court.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about the collaborative divorce process. One of the most common misperceptions is that mediators are attorneys. While this is frequently the case, it doesn't always hold true. Regardless, the mediator will not be your attorney in the case, so each spouse must still retain their own counsel.
Mediation is especially useful in resolving matters of child custody and visitation. It keeps sensitive information about the kids and the marriage out of the courtroom and from public records. If parents are able to reach accord on these issues, they won't have to worry about their children having to testify in court (if they are old enough) or be evaluated by a family counselor who then offers a custody recommendation.
All decisions made in mediation — just as in court — must be in the children's best interest. Parents have to keep this in mind when they negotiate for custody. The view shared by the court is that children thrive when they have equal access to both parents. This is the premise of joint custody unless the parent seeking sole custody can show that their ex having unfettered access to the kids will be to the children's detriment.
Could mediation work for you? It depends. Both you and your soon-to-be ex must be willing to commit to communicating civilly with one another. Those couples who cannot put aside their differences temporarily and work together on their divorces are unlikely candidates for a successfully mediated divorce.
The same goes for couples whose relationship was marred by domestic violence. The abusive spouse is far too likely to browbeat or otherwise manipulate the victimized spouse into making concessions due to the imbalance of power in the relationship.
If, however, you and your ex can manage a mediation, it can bring about a quicker, cheaper and more satisfactory resolution to the marriage.