Couple Counselling vs Mediation

You are having serious problems in your marriage – do you need couple counselling or mediation?

I receive a number of queries regarding the difference between couple counselling and mediation – people seem unsure about which option to choose when they are experiencing marital problems.

What is the difference between couple counselling and mediation?

Couple counselling is usually embarked upon when partners either want to work at improving their relationship or want to come to a decision regarding whether or not the relationship can be saved.

Mediation, on the other hand, is appropriate when  a couple have made the decision to go their separate ways (either by separating or getting divorced)  and want to come to an agreement about care and contact arrangements regarding their children and a settlement regarding finances and maintenance. (Mediation is usually a much more cost effective and less acrimonious option than going the legal route)

What are the issues to consider when deciding between couple counselling and mediation?

Do you feel that your relationship can be saved? Do you want to work on the marriage? Does your partner feel the same way? (Commitment on the part of both parties is essential for any chance of success as work needs to be done on both sides.

Sometimes couples wait to long before they come for help – often the relationship has deteriorated so badly, too much as been said and sometimes actions have been taken such as initiating an affair that reconciliation becomes a herculean task.

Who do I get to mediate?

Mediators usually have a legal or a mental health care background (psychologists and social workers).

It is important to choose a mediator who is appropriately trained and well experienced. In the Cape mediators are accredited with FAMAC (the Family Mediators’ Association of the Cape). In order to find an accredited mediator in your area, you can consult the FAMAC website.



Divorce Facilitation

When conflict arises between a couple before they get divorced, mediation is often a good alternative to a long ,expensive legal battle. However, one a divorce is granted, and especially if there are minor children involved, a facilitation clause is included in the Consent Paper.

What is divorce facilitation, who gets to be a facilitator and how does a facilitator get chosen?

A facilitator is appointed to find solutions to issues that the ex-couple cannot resolve themselves, such as care and contact

in respect of their children, or even maintenance and other financial aspects. In line with the Children’s Act, the”best interests of the child” must be prioritised at all times but unfortunately if there is still considerable anger and bitterness between the parents, the children’s well-being can be compromised. Thus it is the facilitator’s main role to ensure that the care and contact arrangements , usually outlined in a Parenting Plan, are in line with the best interests of the particular children and are carried out responsibly by the parents.

Facilitators are either appointed by a registered body such as FAMAC, or are chosen jointly by the ex-spouses and are usually also accredited mediators. The Divorce Order usually stipulates what qualifications and experience a facilitator should have.

How does divorce facilitation differ from mediation?

In order to find solutions to disputes regarding minor children, facilitators will routinely try to find a mediated solution to a disagreement or impasse. However, where divorce facilitation differs from

mediation is that if and when the parties cannot agree on an issue, the facilitator has the power to  make a decision regarding the issue, whereas in mediation, if the parties cannot agree, the mediator has to respect the fact that a decision could not be reached.

If one of the parties does not accept a decision made by their facilitator, what can they do?

When a facilitator makes a decision which is not necessarily based on a

mediated outcome, he or she will write a directive to that effect. An unhappy ex-spouse has the option of taking the issue to court, where the merits of the facilitator’s directive would be evaluated.

What happens if one of the parties is unhappy with their appointed facilitator?

If the facilitator has been appointed by the court, or if both parties have agreed to a facilitator and a contract has been signed, the facilitator’s services cannot be terminated unless both parties agree to the termination.

Visit our Mediation website for more information: