A simple fact about divorce is that, in the absence of a custody dispute, there is only one issue that needs to be resolved, and that is finances. All of the impossible disputes in the relationship become miraculously moot.
The complicating fact of divorce is that without the practical realm in which emotional conflicts are ordinarily expressed, the unresolved feelings compress into the single question of money. And so, money becomes everything. The insight of mediation is that neither party's satisfaction bears a definite relation to the settlement's dollar amount, and therefore the mediator should not focus on a monetary figure -- as litigators do -- but on how money figures.
For example, one of my couples while in mediation went through a mental shift: instead of thinking that her husband is plundering her savings, she choose to imagine that she will give him a supplement for a certain length of time for his expenses so that he could continue the lifestyle they had developed together. The turning point however occurred when they both realized how tragic divorce was for both of them and that they both were overwhelmed by the enormity of what happened. Therefore coming to terms with something they thought was unfair and move on, was powerful and liberating for both. The number on the mediation agreement was one neither of them would have chosen, but one both of them could live with, precisely because they did choose it.
They both agree that had a judge given them that same number, they each would have felt cheated and would have blamed their attorneys. For them as for many other divorcing couples, mediation became not only a better alternative to litigation, but also an experience that changed their perspective on what have happened to them and allowed them to get on with their lives.