People’s gut reaction initially is: NOT US! – when they hear that in divorce mediation, they meet together with a neutral mediator to work out the terms of their divorce.
How can we work together, they ask, to decide divorce terms, when we scream about deciding what to feed our kid for lunch?
The divorce mediator is the one who makes it possible for the two of you to work things out. Why does having a neutral mediator in the room matter?
I was once training a mediator who observed me in a custody mediation with two parents who’d been fighting for years in family court. I don’t remember what the father and mother were arguing about; maybe he wanted to see their child on different days, maybe the mother wanted to have final say regarding education.
What was memorable was the reaction of the trainee after the session: “I though the mother was right,” she said. I was taken aback, though since she was a beginner I understood her mistake. I have been a mediator so long I am truly neutral – so it hadn’t occurred to me who was “right” or “wrong.” Only how we could find a solution both the mother and father were able to live with. And we did:
A divorce mediator brings to a mediation session a neutral point of view that’s invaluable in helping spouses come to terms:
- While you’re concentrating on disagreeing, we hear the agreeing! You and your spouse are often in such a bad place emotionally, you fail to recognize there are terms you agree on, or are not far apart on. As neutral mediators, we can spot all the ways in which you really are on the same page.
- We help you move on from reliving the past: We’ve had couples try to talk about splitting the house, or child custody, only to wind up arguing about the same issues that broke them up. (“And let’s not forget that Thanksgiving when you secretly meet with you-know-who!”) It takes a neutral person to help you both realize you’ve stopped talking about the divorce terms and have fallen into fighting over the same issues that broke up your marriage.
- We help you recognize your real concerns: So often a spouse may think he or she is fighting over one issue, when a deeper concern is involved. We’re trained to spot the emotional subtext that you might not even be aware of. I remember one father angrily saying that he didn’t want to pay child support. He was screaming, saying it was unfair. When we pressed him on what was so unfair about supporting the children he Moncler outlet clearly loved, he broke down. His stubbornness and anger were masking his deeper sadness and fear of losing his children. When the mother heard that, she was much more willing to work on a parenting plan that would satisfy them both, and he was much more willing to pay child support.
- We are a buffer against one spouse trying to bamboozle the other: As I said, we don’t take sides on who’s right or wrong. But we are attorneys who know divorce law. And occasionally we see a spouse clearly trying to get away with terms that are completely one-sided in his or her favor. We prevent this from happening, not by giving our opinion, or taking sides, but by letting the parties know the truth – that the terms proposed are not “equitable.” (New York is an “equitable” divorce state). No you can’t keep the house and all the family’s assets just because they are in your name – the law doesn’t work that way!
You might insist on serving your child peanut butter and your spouse is fighting with you because he or she is insisting on jelly! But you can come up with divorce terms working together – with a neutral mediator in the room. And that will save you thousands of dollars and months or years in court. Surely you both can agree that is a good thing!