Raising a child with a significant disability is challenging enough when parents have an intact marriage. The challenges increase exponentially when the parents are divorcing. Not only do they need to ascertain their child’s current needs and the resulting financial implications, but they also need to do so into the future, when they are not together and may not be as cooperative in addressing the challenges.
When couples with normal-developing kids are separating or divorcing, we can spend quite a bit of time during mediation discussing their parenting arrangements. When the couple has a special needs child, the whole landscape changes. The discussions about parenting need to be much more detailed so as to flesh out the realities of their situation.
When I’m mediating with parents who have a special needs child, I view myself as being on a “fact-finding mission.” What do I mean by that? In addition to performing my other mediator responsibilities, my role is to gather as much information as I can about the couple’s special needs child, and how that child’s disability relates to the parents, as well as to other siblings in the family.
Recently, I wrote a blog entitled “Divorce Mediation and the Pigeonhole Effect.” In that article, I spoke about the way divorce mediation has unjustifiably been “pigeonholed” by some professionals as being an effective approach for couples in conflict only in very simple situations. This video expands upon my earlier blog, identifying what I see as three of the most common misconceptions regarding mediation.
When couples divorce, they need to resolve important issues related to the ending of their marriage, such as dividing their assets and determining what their parenting arrangements will be. When a couple proceeds with divorce mediation, they’ve chosen to make these decisions on their own, with the help of the mediator. This is referred to as an uncontested divorce.
A basic requirement of divorce mediation is that the mediator be neutral and impartial. At the same time, the mediator must be attentive to any power imbalances that exist between the parties. Even though a neutral, the mediator will support the person with less power or knowledge so that he or she can participate fully…
Rarely when I see a couple for our first mediation session do I find they’re “on the same page” regarding the end of their marriage. Often one spouse is ahead of the other in contemplating the prospect of divorce. See how this disparity plays out in the mediation process.