Mediation: Balancing Self-Determination and the Law

NYC Mediator Susan Ingram of explains the divorce mediation process.

In my last blog article, I talked about the concept of fairness, and how it is easier for a couple to reach a “fair” agreement in a mediation setting – because THEY are the ones making the decisions. If they were litigating their divorce in court, a judge or their attorneys would be making decisions for them.

As an attorney who has chosen to practice only as a mediator (because I believe so passionately in this process), I feel very strongly that while a couple should determine for themselves what is fair and equitable, their decisions also need to be “informed” decisions. What do I mean by that? An informed decision is one in which the couple has as much information as possible to help them decide upon the best course of action for themselves and their children.

I view my overall task in this process of helping clients make informed decisions as two-fold. First, I believe I have a responsibility to tell clients generally (in my role as a neutral attorney) what their rights and responsibilities are under the law, and also to share with them decisions in pertinent cases. If it is appropriate, I will also tell them what other clients have done in similar circumstances. Additionally, I strongly recommend that they have their own review attorneys comment on the draft agreement I’ve prepared, so that each has gotten input from his or her own counsel.

My second, and equally important task, is to make sure my clients have all the information they need. I advise them during the first session that they may need to consult with experts or professionals in areas in which the issues are complex.

For instance, I may refer a couple to a financial expert if one of them owns a business, if there are complicated tax issues, or if one of the parties is less knowledgeable as to money matters. Or, I may refer a couple to a family or child therapist if their children are having difficulty – experiencing anxiety or aggression because of their parents’ separation. I view these other professionals as an essential part of my “mediation team.”

Much care and effort goes into supporting clients so that they can make their own decisions as to what is fair and equitable for them. These decisions should not be made in a vacuum. Clearly, when a couple is armed with all the information they need, they can make better decisions for themselves and their family.


Comments From Social Media

I enjoyed and was uplifted by your blog. Mediation and the suggestion of other services to couples gives the opportunity for clear decision making which is so vital. As a well-being practitioner specialising in this area once feelings of e.g. anger, injustice or helplessness are reduced; then the more successful the outcome can be for all concerned.

Susan Cowe Miller



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