Mediation will not, of course, solve marriage problems, but it could make the divorce procedure easier and make post-divorce life more bearable, particularly for children who catch the brunt of their parent's reactions.

When it comes to custody issues -- part of the mediation settlement agreement -- mediation experts Larry Gaughan and John Haynes are in favor of joint custody, or as they prefer to say, "joint parenting."

Haynes spends hours charting a couple's routine expectations and scheduling for the children or family. The inclusive planning takes into consideration everything from carpooling for dance lessons to who spends Christmas with which set of grandparents.

"Joint custody," says Gaughan, "is what parents have when they are married, and the issues that caused the marriage to break up don't have to cause the parenting to break up."

Because parenting problems cannot be negotiated as objectively as financial issues, considerable more "thoughtfulness" is required on the part of the mediator.

Gaughan recalls a couple's dilemma over sharing "church time" with their children when each parent belonged to a different faith. After researching the doctrines of the two religions, Gaughan was able to show the couple how similar their faiths were and that what the children were receiving was a positive experience.