“Can mediation work for my divorce?” The answer to that question will vary, depending upon who you are and whom you ask.
When I hear this question as a divorce mediator, I take an optimistic approach— informed by my experience in working with hundreds of couples over the years. I strongly believe that mediation can work in most cases, and I also acknowledge (albeit with regret) that mediation does not work in all cases.
… I invite new clients to meet with me for an initial consultation appointment. This creates an opportunity to discuss realistic expectations before starting mediation itself.
Interestingly enough, most cases that are not well suited for mediation never get started. That is one of the reasons why I invite new clients to meet with me for an initial consultation appointment, at a reduced fee. This creates an opportunity to discuss realistic expectations before starting mediation itself.
A mediator works within his/her own particular process. In my mediation work, I set goals. These goals establish expectations that, if met, can support a successful resolution. If they cannot be met, they create an early warning indicator that mediation may not be the right process.
Goal One: Establish the opportunity for each participant to express her/himself and be heard:
In mediation, I am hosting a conversation with two spouses who are attempting to plan a future apart. Both have a stake in this process, and, therefore, each needs a chance to speak. What one spouse says will not necessarily be agreed upon by the other spouse, but each needs to express personal needs and fully participate. This lays the groundwork for exploring options to meet both sets of needs. That conversation provides the catalyst for envisioning a path forward. If that exchange cannot happen, because one or both are absolutely unwilling to engage each other, then mediation may not be the best course for resolution of the divorce. Others may need to be involved to do the hard work of negotiation and decision-making.
Goal Two: Assure the decisions made by the participants are mutually acceptable:
Whether we are talking about parenting or finances, every decision is important. In mediation, part of my role is to check in with both participants when they are poised to make a decision on a proposal, to make sure that this proposal is something they can fully accept. It is one thing to come into mediation with the idea that a resolution requires a degree of “give and take” based on principles held in good faith. It’s something completely different if coercion and bad faith are present—another clue that other professionals, like attorneys, should be present at the mediation sessions to support the participants, or perhaps a different process may be needed.
I want to emphasize that, fundamentally, for most clients who have engaged my services, mediation has been a good choice. Knowing what is expected to order to participate successfully in mediation can help those who are skeptical to make the best decision for their unique circumstances.