Had an irate e-mail from a former client, who is now in litigation with her husband and was feeling (retroactively) that I was not neutral, but was instead biased in favor of her husband.
They were in litigation before they came to seem me – and came in for 6 hours of mediation, to try to settle their differences – but ended up back in litigation.
People often do feel that I’m ‘on their side.’ But what they don’t always see is that I’m also on the other person’s side.
In this case, the father really wanted more time with the child, and I was certainly sympathetic to that. The latest research shows, very clearly, that children who have good relationships with their fathers do fantastically better, in school and in life, than do children who have been cut out of their father’s lives (or abandoned by fathers).
In fact – even for children whose fathers just walked them to school on Mondays after week-ends – or fathers who attended parent-teacher conferences but otherwise never set foot in the school – get a much clearer message that their parents both feel that school is important. A little bit of dad goes a long way.
But – on the other hand – this guy was a kind of a loose cannon. He’d had his driver’s license suspended for speeding, and had in addition had several accidents, and he did not want to agree not to have the child in the car while he drove. He wasn’t even supposed to drive at all – no license! I tried to make him see that that wouldn’t go over too well with a judge, and he really didn’t get it.
(Was this narcissism – nothing I do can be wrong? Or stupidity. I don’t know – but came to the same thing – that dad might not have been a safe person for that kid to be with.)
Anyway – I reminded the wife of these things, and assured her that I had seen them – and she felt reassured that I was also “on her side.”