Divorce Mediation and the Pigeonhole Effect

Divorce Mediation and the Pigeonhole Effect

{2:36 minutes to read}

Often people, especially divorce litigators, have a tendency to “pigeonhole” divorce mediation as being only effective in limited situations. For example, I recently attended a panel discussion presented by the Family and Divorce Mediation Council, an organization of divorce mediators in the greater New York area, to which I belong. The subject was the Anatomy of a Divorce Litigation. The panel consisted of 3 individuals—a judge, a court attorney referee, and an attorney whose practice focuses solely on contested divorces (that is, those that are litigated).

It was fascinating to hear the differences of opinion. Both the judge and the referee, citing the harsh realities of the court system and its negative impact upon families, were very supportive of couples mediating their divorces whenever possible.

The litigation attorney, however, presented a different perspective, which became apparent when she answered a question from an attendee as to when mediation might not be appropriate. Thus began her identification of several significant areas in which she believed divorce mediation would not be appropriate. Included among them were situations involving a lack of trust between the parties, usually stemming from an affair or distrust as to financial or other matters.

This is a good example of what happens when litigation attorneys, and others, pigeonhole divorce mediation. Let’s face it, most break-ups involve a lack of trust in some way or another. Affairs and money problems are not uncommon in divorce or separation situations and can be successfully worked out in mediation.

Discussions may be more heated or emotional at times, but as long as the couple is willing to truly discuss the issues that need to be addressed (thus moving beyond rigid, right-and-wrong thinking), mediation could be a good choice for them. If, however, one of the parties is solely intent upon wreaking vengeance on the other, then mediation is not a good choice.

Relegating the mediation process to narrowly defined “pigeonholes” could discourage some couples from using this beneficial approach to divorce and separation. I’ll be further exploring this subject in my next blog article. So stay tuned!

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One response on “Divorce Mediation and the Pigeonhole Effect

  1. Melissa Burns

    Hi Susan,
    I think you make an excellent point about the mediation process. It is the willingness of the couple to create their own outcome that makes mediation successful, despite the wide range of issues that are unique to each situation. Thank you for the great read!

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