Professional Mediator Wants to Change the ‘Culture' of Divorce


(Thursday, May 15, 2008 2:47 PM EDT)

Divorce often is a lengthy, expensive and emotionally draining process, but, with divorce mediation, it doesn't have to be.

Philip Mulford, an attorney who now works as a professional mediator, has helped couples with seemingly impossible divorce cases make mutually agreeable arrangements, without their having to spend countless hours in court and loads of money on attorney costs.

With more than 90 percent of Mulford Mediation clients leaving with agreements they like, why isn't divorce mediation a more common practice?

“There is tremendous misunderstanding,” when it comes to divorce mediation, Mulford said in a recent interview.

Mulford, who has offices in Warrenton in Fairfax, has practiced mediation since 1990 and is one of the few full-time professional mediators in Virginia.

Through his radio show, “Divorce Mediation: Myths & Facts” on VoiceAmerica Internet radio, Mulford hopes to inform the public about what mediation really is, and how it might be helpful to them.

“I want to provide information,” he said. “The goal of the show is to dispel myths and save time, money and emotions.”

In each episode, Mulford focuses on one myth about mediation, taking callers throughout the hour-long show, which he broadcasts through from his home office.

(Sometimes, if he forgets to close the office door, Mulford's cat Perot makes a cameo on the air.)

One of the myths he hears the most is that couples have to be amicable in order for mediation to work.

Quite the contrary.

“You don't have to be on friendly terms. You can be on hostile terms,” he said. “People who are amicable have their own set of problems. They don't say what they want because they don't want to hurt the other person's feelings.”

Even if couples are not on good terms, mediation provides a framework where they can make proposals only effective if both agree to them, resulting in “specialized and customized arrangements for each family.”

Mulford has seen couples go through three years of litigation, only to realize at the end that the divorce arrangements were not what they wanted.

By going through mediation, couples can avoid spending thousands of dollars and wasting their time, he said.

“Mediation is such a shortened process,” he said. And with costs of litigation between $50,000 and $150,000, “mediation is one-tenth that cost.”

On the air since November 2006, Mulford has one of the fastest growing audiences on VoiceAmerica, and recently was endorsed by the Association of Attorney-Mediators. Mulford attributes the success of the show to people's desire for more control over the divorce process.

“They don't want other people making their decisions,” he said. “Through mediation “they have control over their lives.”

Even though the show's target audience is anyone contemplating divorce, Mulford believes that all married couples could benefit from listening.

“A lot of what I talk about is communication,” Mulford said. “Mediation is not a special secret. It's a change from argumentative communication to communication where you listen to each other.” Most of all, he said he just wants “to make sure that people who need this service are aware of it as an alternative.”

“I want to change the culture of divorce from the destructive nightmare that it is today to a process where couples work together and respect one another, where they create an arrangement that is acceptable to both of them, and create the best future for themselves and their children,” he said.

“Divorce Mediation: Myths and Facts” airs live Thursdays at 2 p.m. on For information on Phillip Mulford, see the Web site at

Philip Mulford suggests that mediation can be the right way to go for many divorcing couples.

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