WHAT IS MEDIATION?
Mediation is a process used for resolving conflict. As your mediator, I can help you move through the issues and find new ground for resolution. Often divorcing couples fall into the same fights over and over again — this is where a neutral third person can help.
I am neutral. I won’t take sides with you against your spouse, or with your spouse against you. Instead, I will work with you to increase your understanding of each other and of your conflict. I will not make decisions for you — only you will decide what is best for your future.
Conflict is painful. Most people have a drive to resolve it. When people understand the sources of conflict, there is a huge release of creative energy which leads to terrific brainstorming sessions about how to solve the problem and end the conflict.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT FROM MEDIATION?
I begin work with my clients by identifying all of the unresolved issues. We have a detailed checklist that we go through to identify where there is already agreement, and where we need additional information and/or discussion. Each person gets to tell me his/her side of the story, so that I can hear as much as possible about why you came to see me. I give each person a pad of paper and a pen so that the other person can write down their ideas without having to interrupt the speaker.
Then, once all the issues are on the table, we can begin to delve deeper into different points to gain an increased understanding. When that understanding is there, problem solving begins.
As you and your spouse agree, I will begin to draft an Agreement reflecting your discussions. Most of the couples with whom I work will then take the completed agreement to attorneys for review. Some people, however, come to mediation because they want to avoid having multiple third-party professionals involved in their divorce. During our sessions, we can discuss the options, pros and cons, and the role that you and your spouse would like attorneys to have in your divorce.
Finally, after the mediation process is completed and if appropriate, I can prepare the forms for the court and file for your divorce.
IS MEDIATION FOR ME? WHO CAN & CAN’T MEDIATE?
1. ABILITY TO SPEAK FREELY:
Mediation requires you to negotiate with your spouse. You have to be able to sit in the room together, and you have to be able to express what you need.
If you are not clear about what you want or need, or why you want or need it, that’s OK. I can work with you during the mediation process to help you to consider lots of different options and give you time to figure out what you need.
2. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:
If you and your spouse have a history of violence between you, you probably should use more traditional methods for negotiating your divorce. It is difficult to speak freely and express what you want if you fear that you will pay for your words later.
However – if you have a clear belief that mediation is your best option, please feel free to give me a call to discuss safeguards that we can put into the mediation process, such as:
- Written guidelines of behavior which, if violated, will trigger immediate termination;
- Presence of your advocate, relative or friend during mediation;
- Separate mediation appointments for you and your spouse/partner;
- Telephone/conference call mediation appointments, with no face-to-face meetings.
3. EMOTIONAL INTIMIDATION:
If there’s been extreme emotional intimidation between you and your spouse, you may not be able to mediate. You have to be able to speak freely during the mediation sessions. I worked with a couple once where the wife’s personality completely changed when the husband left the room. She was quiet and tense when he was there, but relaxed and chatty when he left. They were not able to mediate their divorce because she could not say what she felt while her husband was in the room.
4. NO HIDDEN ASSETS:
Mediation requires full and free exchange of information. If you believe that your spouse may be hiding assets from you, you should go to a lawyer. Lawyers are better at finding hidden assets, and at forcing people to reveal them. In mediation, people have to be willing to disclose their assets to each other — although the information does not have to leave the mediation room.
5. NOT SURE ABOUT DIVORCING.
Finally, most couples who come to mediation know that they want to divorce. If you and your spouse are still considering whether or not to stay together, you should probably work with a couples therapist or marriage counselor.
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WHAT ARE IS MY ALTERNATIVE?
If you feel that you want the benefit of having a lawyer to represent you, so that you have someone to depend on during this difficult and life-changing process, and so that you make sure you know your legal rights, you can try Collaborative Law. That process has you and your spouse represented by attorneys who agree not to go to court.
Attorneys who are trained in Collaborative Law use the same interest-based facilitated-negotiation techniques as mediation to generate win-win results. It may be appealing to people who can afford to have more involvement by attorneys, and who want that kind of expertise. For more information, click here.
If you have questions about whether you can mediate, feel free to contact me:
or email me.
WHAT IS MEDIATOR NEUTRALITY?
How could a mediator be neutral about your situation when you are getting divorced? Surely one of you is right and the other is wrong!
First of all – let me reassure you that you won’t agree to anything in mediation that you don’t want to agree to! But something happens in mediation that changes people’s goals and outlook. I don’t ask my clients to agree with each other – just to make an honest effort to understand each other. And to accomplish that, it turns out that mediator neutrality is one of the most valuable and powerful tools I have.
If I really understand how you are feeling, what this experience has done to you, what this means for you, the challenges that you are facing as you try to restructure your life – then I can help your spouse understand these things. And I can also make sure that the agreement that we put together takes care of you and your needs.
HOW IS MEDIATION DIFFERENT THAN LITIGATION?
The theory underlying our adversarial legal system, is that each person will hire a bright, skilled warrior who will see the situation completely from the perspective of the client, and then present the strongest case possible to the judge. The judge will get the best information from each side, but will be neutral. The judge will see the situation from above and will render a decision which metes out justice and wisdom.
Sadly, because of our over-loaded and burdened court system, most judges do not have the time to get to know the people behind the case-load. People who go through the court system often end up feeling that they did not have their story heard by the judge, and that they were not given a chance to speak.
Mediation will give you that chance – and you are the best person to speak about your life and your needs. No expert knows your life as well as you and your spouse do. In truth, no hired expert will care as much as you do – because only you and your family will live with the agreement you make. You are the people who are in the best position to decide what should happen with your family, your possessions, and with your divorce.
As a mediator, I will not act as a judge, in that I will not make decisions FOR you – but I will act as a judge in that I will remain neutral. I will do my best to listen to everything that each of you needs to say, and I will ask questions to make sure that we have all of the information we need. If one person needs additional information, I will help to brainstorm to figure out how to get the information to that person. He or she might need the assistance of an accountant, a financial planner, or an attorney, before feeling confident enough to evaluate offers that are on the table or have enough background information to make decisions.
I will use all of the tools I have to make sure that each person HEARS the other. There is always miscommunication between divorcing people, but a neutral mediator can help to improve the communication to make sure that you understand where the other is coming from, and why you believe the proposed result is right. You don’t have to agree with each other – but it helps to understand why you disagree.
That is the theory. How does it work in practice? How is it possible to be on both people’s sides, when they are in a conflict.