Every divorce eventually comes to an end. How you reach the end and how much damage the process causes depends upon the form of dispute resolution you and your spouse choose to undertake. Aside from death, a court is the only way to have a marriage dissolved. But having the court dissolve a marriage does not require you to use the court and the adversarial model of litigating to obtain justice to resolve your disputes. Mediation is often, for most parties, more efficient, less costly, more predictable, faster and less damaging than litigating the issue in court.
A mediator is a neutral person who is trained to help people talk so the parties can better understand their problems and reach an agreement. A mediator does not take the side of either party, nor passes judgment on the parties or their problems. The function of the mediator is to manage the process for the parties, get them talking, help them better understand the problems and reach a solution that meets their needs. The mediator keeps the conversations going and focused.
The mediator sets the tone for the negotiations. The mediator helps create an atmosphere conducive to discussion and resolution of the issues. The mediator, when needed, reminds the parties to take a more cooperative and less competitive approach as that is more consistent with their highest goal, reaching a reasoned and reasonable agreement. Because the parties have usually experienced a significant breach of trust, responding to trust issues is one of the most challenging tasks for a mediator.
The emotional consequences of the breakdown of relationships in family disputes cannot be overstated. Lawyers who are working hard to advocate for their clients may miss the emotional significance of some of the matters that cause the most grief and about which a person becomes most intransigent. Family mediators consider the emotions and the feelings that the parties are experiencing which can be a significant obstacle to settlement. Understanding the emotions is key for a mediator to help guide the parties away from simply responding to the emotions and focusing on the real problem at hand.
The parties who choose mediation are not any different than those who choose litigation. Some litigants take that route either out of perceived necessity or lack of knowledge of the availability of mediation. For many litigants, they, too, grow tired of the court system and later submit their issues to mediation, seeking a more peaceful end to the proceedings.
I have been acting in the capacity of mediator for nearly 25 years. My settlement rate is astoundingly high. Cases that settle in mediation tend to stay settled as the parties have developed new skills in dispute resolution without the past build up of tension and anger. Parties who mediate the resolution of their family matter transition into a two household model of former spouses with much more dignity and much more of their joint assets than those who choose litigation.
To determine if your matter is right for mediation, give me a call.