You may have heard of divorce mediation as an alternative to a “traditional” divorce — lawyers, judges, bitter arguments, and hefty fees. The idea that all of this can be bypassed may seem too good to be true. In some cases, it is too good to be true.

Divorce mediation can certainly be the solution many divorcing parties are hoping for: Quick, efficient, highly effective, and incredibly cheap compared to litigation. But it’s not always the right path to take.

How do you know if divorce mediation is a viable option for you, or someone you know? There are three major factors in play. By understanding the mechanics of mediation, and the behavioral dynamics required to make it work, you can find greater clarity about this option, and whether it can actually work for you. Here are the three major factors to consider:

1. How complicated is the divorce

Every divorce is different and has various levels of complication. In some cases, there are extensive documents and information that one or both parties must gather in order to proceed toward a reliable and fair outcome. On the other hand, there are situations in which things aren’t very complicated, and/or both parties have already researched and produced all the information they need. It’s often possible for a resolution to be reached in as little as two meetings in these “less complicated” cases.

2. How amicable are the divorcing parties

Divorce mediation is distinct from litigation in that neither party is legally required to cooperate, produce information, or work toward an amicable result. Instead, the divorce mediation process relies on a “good faith” approach from both parties. If one or both parties are going to actively withhold information or otherwise stymie the mediation process, it won’t simply produce an efficient and amicable result. There is no legal requirement for anyone to be honest about financial disclosures, or produce information that can pave the way to an ideal resolution. It’s up to the divorcing parties to establish and maintain an honest rapport through the process. Ultimately, that’s how the mediation process saves people time, money and a whole lot of stress.

3. How skilled and qualified is the divorce mediator

Although divorce mediation is not a legally binding process, it aims to reach a specific set of agreements and resolutions that allow the divorce to move through the legal process with no friction or litigation. In other words, it’s very important to have a skilled and experienced professional leading the meditation process. The best divorce mediators out there have extensive education in areas such as social work, financial planning, and even psychology. Other critical attributes include years of experience and a detailed knowledge of the legal framework in your area. All of these qualities taken together allow the mediator to view the divorce from an extremely practical and realistic lens, so that the agreements and resolutions reached will actually translate to an amicable and economically effective divorce.

How do I find the right divorce mediator?

Obviously, finding someone with whom both parties feel comfortable is important. Consistently high ratings from past clients, a long-standing reputation in the community, and extensive education and experience are also things to look for as you choose someone to lead your divorce mediation process.