Mediation is one of the most commonly used methods of negotiating divorce settlements in the United States. Mediators do not automatically get involved in divorce proceedings, but instead are hired as neutral third parties when efforts to dissolve a union become difficult.
There is a growing concern in the profession that mediation may not be appropriate in divorce cases when matters of domestic violence are involved. Domestic violence is, unfortunately, common in many American families. And there is growing evidence that will be a factor in many cases that are referred to family mediation. In many cases the mediator may not know that the case in mediation involves abuse, either alleged or established. Recent studies have shown that spousal abuse exists in as many as fifty percent of the cases of custody and visitation disputes. It is therefore important for mediators to understand that roughly half of the cases referred to them have the potential for being cases of domestic violence. The mediator must now how to identify such couples, and how to process them in the most appropriate manner.
It is not always easy to identify or recognize domestic violence. Many of those directly affected want to keep it a secret, because of shame, fear or reprisal, the mistaken belief that it is a normal way for a relationship to function, or some other reason. Research demonstrates convincingly that family violence is, in fact, most often the result of generations of culturally learned behaviors and attitudes.
Theresa Beatty is a family and divorce mediator in the local judicial court in LaGrange, Georgia.