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.
Although divorce mediation has been available as an option for couples for quite some time, there remains a lot of confusion around this subject. Part of the problem is that the mediation community has not done a very good job over the years of letting the public know about this viable alternative to divorce litigation. More importantly, though, the matrimonial bar – lawyers who make their living representing clients in contested divorce matters – are overwhelmingly opposed to the concept of divorce mediation. And it’s understandable why they would be: they fear that mediators will take clients, and income, away from them. And being most comfortable and familiar with their litigious approach to settling issues (“I win, you lose”), they often cannot comprehend how mediation could serve their clients.
Divorcing couples often ask – when is the right time for us to proceed with mediation? There is no one set answer to this question. First of all, it is rarely the situation that both husband and wife are at the exact same stage of accepting that their marriage has ended or is about to end. Typically, one of the parties has thought more about ending the marriage and is thus the “initiator.” Although the signs might have been there for some time, the other party may not be prepared and may even be surprised by this turn of events.
Parents who are divorcing, and who have children, must address two separate and important issues up front: who will have legal custody of the children and who will have physical custody of the children. Depending upon the circumstances, legal custody and physical custody may be awarded to one parent solely, or to both parents jointly.