By their very nature, family businesses can be especially challenging to manage successfully. First, there are the normal (and not so normal) demands and pressures of running a business. But then, superimpose on that the complex relational issues that arise within a family structure . . . and you have the makings of what could potentially be a very difficult work environment.
I published an article recently about marital mediation in the context of couples who have been working with a family or couples therapist. Since this is such an important and little understood subject, I would like to take the opportunity to explain this process from a broader perspective.
Very little has been written to date about an intriguing and ‘new’ use of mediation in the family setting. Most people have heard about divorce mediation, which gives divorcing couples the opportunity to reach agreements about their property, parenting and support without having to go through a litigated (contested) divorce. The mediator, who is neutral, facilitates the conversations the couple needs to have, and helps them brainstorm options – enabling them to come up with better, win-win solutions for themselves and their children.
There are two principal aspects to the role a mediator plays when helping couples resolve their issues during mediation. One relates to the substance and the other has to do with the process itself. Substance refers to the issues that must be addressed and resolved when a couple is separating or divorcing. Process relates to the ground rules that are established, and then how the conversations take place and move along, ultimately to resolution. Each is equally important, in its own right. Two earlier blog articles (Issues & Additional Issues in Divorce Mediations) described the specific issues that need to be discussed in divorce mediation.
With enough training and experience, a divorce/family mediator can certainly become an adequate, and even a good mediator. But what are those extra qualities that turn a good mediator into a great mediator? I’ve purposefully used the word qualities instead of abilities, because I believe qualities better conveys the deep-seated foundation and beliefs by which a person lives his or her life. It’s these less-tangible elements that make all the difference – and that ultimately enable the mediator to interact with clients on a much deeper level. (Note: for editorial consistency, I’ve referred to the mediator as ‘she’ in this article.)
Many issues come up in divorce mediation, but one of the most challenging for the mediator and the couple is when there appears to be a power imbalance. There are two areas where this issue comes up most frequently: one is with financial matters and the other is with intimidating and aggressive behavior by one by the parties.
Medical coverage and expenses are of great concern to everyone these days. With a married couple, the spouse who is covered through his or her employer is often providing coverage for the other spouse and the children. While that spouse can continue to cover the children, once the couple is divorced, the other spouse will no longer be entitled to that coverage. COBRA allows a divorcing spouse to obtain his or her own health insurance through the covered spouse’s carrier, but the premiums are often extremely expensive. So there needs to be a discussion around this subject – what type of insurance the non-covered spouse can afford and what it will cost. Some couples even choose not to proceed directly to divorce, but to remain legally separated, so that the other spouse can continue on the existing plan.
Divorcing couples seek out mediators because they want non-adversarial resolutions to the important issues that need to be discussed before they exit their marriage. Some of the decisions that have to be made may seem overwhelming, if not downright impossible. It is the mediator’s job to help the couple move through these difficult discussions – so that, together, they can remove the obstacles blocking their progress towards a mutually agreeable settlement.
As divorcing couples become more and more enlightened, an increasing number of people have become curious about the benefits of mediation and how they might be applied to their unique situation. In thinking about this issue, I’ve compiled a list of seven advantages to mediation over the traditional divorce process.
That is an important question – and one whose answer has many nuances. A simple answer to that question might be: When your relationship has fallen apart and cannot be repaired. But, as we know, life is often not that simple. There are a number of subtle factors that play into the decision that ultimately brings a couple to divorce mediation.