Divorce Mediation in 2014 by Stephanie Maloney, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
When mediation first started, most mediators worked on their own. And a talented mediator can certainly help couples reach a settlement, but as the years went on I found myself suggesting that we add an attorney or a therapist to our mediation.
March 12, 2014 (Newswire.com) - When mediation first started, most mediators worked on their own. And a talented mediator can certainly help couples reach a settlement, but as the years went on I found myself suggesting that we add an attorney or a therapist to our mediation sessions to better facilitate the discussions and to bring their expertise into the room.
The evolution and improvements in mediation and Collaborative Divorce have made these divorce options, even better choices than they were years ago (although they were always good options to going to court).
When mediation first started, most mediators worked on their own. And a talented mediator can certainly help couples reach a settlement, but as the years went on I found myself suggesting that we add an attorney or a therapist to our mediation sessions to better facilitate the discussions and to bring their expertise into the room.
Adding professionals added to the initial cost of the divorce mediation, but I quickly found that co-mediating with different kinds of professionals actually lowered the overall cost of the divorce for the clients and it also made the mediations go more smoothly.
After all, I'm a financial neutral, not a child psychologist. So while I think I did a good job with negotiating parenting plans on my own, a therapist-mediator who specialized in understanding how children handle divorce and how parents can help their children cope with the divorce could bring a lot more to the discussion than I could.
Similarly, while a therapist might do a terrific job negotiating a parenting plan, he or she might not be able to explain the difference between an IRA and a 401 (k).
And while both a therapist and a financial mediator might know about basic family law and procedures, a family law attorney-mediator knows a lot more and can answer more specific questions.
Soon we found ourselves working in a "full team model," meaning that our mediations included an attorney-mediator, therapist-mediator and financial mediator. That way, no matter what kind of question came up, there'd be an expert in the room who could answer the question. And while one mediator was talking, another could be taking notes and the 3rd mediator might be reviewing the financial disclosures or looking something up. The process became extremely efficient.
There was also an unanticipated benefit to this model—the mediators could give each other feedback on how the session went, and plan on how to handle the next session. We could allocate the work between us. We could watch the parties' body language in the room more easily, because one mediator could focus solely on the parties' reactions to the discussion without having to worry about following the exact discussion or taking notes.
We could also model good behavior for the parties. After all, we're only human. Sometimes we rush things, or say something that isn't quite accurate. This gives us as mediators the opportunity to model good conflict resolution behaviors for clients. For example, if one mediator has a good idea, he or she might say, "May I interject something at this point?" or, "Actually, that explanation isn't quite right. Can I clarify?" and the mediator who is being corrected, or, technically, criticized, can say, "Oh, yes, absolutely—I'm glad you pointed that out." After all, we all have the same goal: to help the clients reach an agreement.
Recently, we had a situation in which we ended up speaking individually with the parties in different rooms. While we ordinarily keep couples in the same room together during mediation (after all, they're the decision-makers and they're living with the outcome of the discussion), in this particular case we wanted to talk with each party separately for a few minutes.
Because there are 2 or more mediators in our full team model, one mediator can go with each person, which helps allay anxieties about the process and which also helps the mediators gain additional insights which the parties may not have wanted to share in front of their spouse.
In this particular case, once I was in another room with one of the parties, something occurred to me that I really thought that needed to be discussed privately….with the other party. So I wrote a quick note to my co-mediator, asked the client I was talking with if I could be excused for a moment, and then slipped the note to my co-mediator.
Then the discussion continued in parallel fashion, but with each party in a separate room. It was a very sensitive subject. It would've been very difficult to broach that particular topic with everyone in the same room. But because there were 2 mediators, we could make sure this topic was thoroughly covered with each party without the parties having to take turns. If I'd been mediating by myself, talking to one party at a time would have had to happen if there was just one mediator, I would've talked first to one spouse, and then to the other, making the other spouse wait alone in a room, which is uncomfortable at best.
Mediation has always been an excellent choice for how to handle your divorce and stay out of court. It's always been less expensive, faster and confidential. And now that we know more about the process and mediators are more and more experienced all the time, mediation continues to be an increasingly effective process for resolving divorce and custody conflicts.