Couples facing divorce want options. Options that protect. Protect finances . . .futures. . .children. Many hear about mediation works – Bing images mediation and wonder, “Could that work for us?”
Here’s a test.
Though no process guarantees success, certain factors help. These elements substantially increase chances for mediation to resolve all the issues surrounding divorce. Privately. Amicably. Effectively.
Mediation works best when . . .
. . .Spouses expect to work with each other to make decisions.
Studies have found that autocracies (governments where one person has complete power) fare poorly in mediation. In contrast, democracies often settle disputes quite effectively.
The same proves true with couples. When one or both people enter mediation making demands and refusing to consider the other’s perspective, the process flounders. Alternatively, when couples enter mediation expecting that each will have a say–mediation works well.
. . .Neither party feels pressured into a decision.
Alongside each person having a say in decisions, each person must feel equipped to make decisions. When one spouse has dominated the relationship–either purposely or by default–the other may feel unable to express preferences or push for different options.
Good mediators educate each person to fully understand all the issues along with the range of options for resolving each. Armed with information about possibilities, each can then identify their own priorities and preferences.
The mediator then creates a process which helps parties find combinations that work for both.
As an added benefit–mediation offers the opportunity for spouses to practice engaging in a more balanced way. Extremely important if the couple has children and face years of co-parenting.
Though sometimes one spouse dominates, more often–power shifts between spouses. One may be financially savvy but the other knows more about the children. Each feels insecure–just on different subjects.
Mediation offers the information and clarity each needs to enter discussions confidently. Equipped couples create workable agreements.
. . .Participants enter as allies rather than enemies.
Happy couples don’t divorce. Divorce comes because spouses stopped trusting each other. That loss of trust leads to sadness, anger, and, even, bitterness. In short, a tough mindset to see the other as an ally.
Yet, studies show–allies mediate better than enemies.
When spouses can find common ground, they build better agreements. It’s easier than it sounds. Generally:
- Both spouses want to protect their assets.
- Both spouses want financially viable futures.
- If there are children, both spouses want to protect the children.
These joint desire create common ground. When a couple decides to work together for the best outcome for both, mediation works.
. . .The timing is right.
Timing must be balanced.
People entering mediation need enough time to become fully informed. Depending on the complexity of the issues, that process can take longer than expected. Couples who rush this part of the process often find the mediation unraveling later.
At the same time, when mediation drags out–opportunity for resolution goes down. People get tired of ongoing ambiguity and lose faith in a floundering process.
Mediation works best when couples take the time to fully understand elements needed for decision, then actively work together to resolve issues and move forward into their separate lives.
. . .Couples keep intensity low.
Divorce is a bit like separating conjoined twins. Marriage unites two people on every level–emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically. Divorce separates on each level–a complicated and painful process. Of course, emotions run rampant.
Mediation offers a forum for each person to safely express the impact for them personally. This often becomes the first step in couples moving forward. It also helps couples design agreements to address the deepest impacts.
Yet, how people express their emotions matters. If spouses use mediation to rage against the other or to seek redress for the years of hurt, the whole process suffers. When each speaks openly but respectfully, the intensity remains low. And, mediation moves forward.
. . .Couples stick to issues of territory and security–not ideology.
Divorcing couples generally disagree about how life should work. Hence, the divorce.
So, focusing mediation on discussions of how life should work proves ineffective. Mediation should avoid discussions of values or ideology. Better option–focus on issues of territory and security.
If parents disagree about whether their child should own a smart phone–discussing the pros and cons of preteens using smart phones will likely go in circles. People rarely find compromise on issues involving their values.
Instead, focus on issues of security–if one parent opposes the smart phone due to fear of their child’s exposure to others, discussions can focus on installing parent controls and limiting apps. If the concern is about their child spending too much time on the phone, parents can set time limits. If nothing else, parents can agree that Mom sets rules for her house and Dad for his. In all these, the discussion focuses on how to honor each other’s territory–not how to get the other to agree on values.
As couples shift to these more concrete arenas, they open doors to agreement.
Can mediation work? When couples adopt these guidelines, mediation offers a clear path for resolving issues of divorce and setting a foundation for health transition to life after divorce. If you would like more information about how mediation can work for you, call 317-344-9740 or email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com for a free consultation.