Because of the many problems associated with litigating divorce disputes, m
ediation has been proposed as an alternative. Its proponents, claiming wide
-ranging benefits for both the litigants and the legal system, have had tre
mendous success in advancing mediation in social policy. This article criti
cally assesses the validity of these claimed benefits. The article first co
nsiders the role of pro se representation and its potential consequences fo
r evaluating divorce mediation because of the increased use of pro se repre
sentation in these cases. The article then articulates the goals attributed
to the mediation procedure and its clients, identifies the behavioral assu
mptions underlying those goals, and critically reviews the social science r
esearch and theory that have directly tested the validity of the goals and
assumptions or are indirectly relevant to the analysis (B. D. Sales, 1983).
It is concluded that the goals of divorce mediation may have been and may
be overly optimistic. The implications of these findings for mediation prac
tice and policy are considered.