By Mary Ann Stokes
During my 20 years of mediating more than 3000 family law cases I believe that the most important function that I serve as mediator is to make sure that the parties, jointly and individually, have all the information that they need to make decisions about how they want to share time with their children, divide their assets and liabilities and share their income stream(s). It is also my obligation as mediator to provide a safe environment for the parties to speak their individual truths and to help each hear what the other is saying. Think about this: When did you stop listening to what your partner was saying? Did you even make it through the honeymoon or is the communication breakdown more recent? How are you going to decide how to handle your divorce if you can’t communicate?
Based upon where you are now, is mediation right for you, right now?
Ask a mediator and you hear explanations of mediation ranging from mediation is the potential “to transform” the parties locked in conflict (transformative mediation) to it is the chance to have a neutral person evaluate each party’s position and help the parties find compromise between their two positions (evaluative mediation).
Ask parties seeking mediation and you will get answers ranging from we want this done quickly, inexpensively and fairly (i.e. we don’t want to pay lawyers to fight with each other when the two of us know what we want) to I want the mediator to convince the other to do what I want because that is what is “fair” (i.e. the bully).
The goal of mediation is to have a settlement of the issues between the parties where each party can say this is not an unfair agreement and maybe more importantly, if each party takes that mediated agreement to an attorney for independent legal advice the attorney can reassure the party that the agreement is not unfair.
Not all parties, however, are ready for mediation. If you want what you are “entitled to” you need to have a court answer that question. Although the law is relatively clear, its interpretation and application to the particular “facts” of your case is not. I put “facts” in quotation marks because until a court finds the facts, each party has their own “facts.” If you want to punish your partner, seek revenge for the hurt you are feeling and cannot get past that you are owed something, that you are entitled to exactly what you want, then you are the victim, and most likely, you are not ready for mediation.
Are you ready for mediation? Are you ready to leave money and time with the children on the table for your partner? Are you ready to compromise your position? If you are and your partner is then you are ready for mediation.