Divorce Mediation and What’s “Right”

People ask me sometimes, “What is the hardest part of divorce mediation?” I would have to say it’s when one or both people get “locked-in” to a position. If people are absolutely firm and unyielding in their different positions, then mediation is over, because without movement no agreement in divorce mediation can be reached.

Sometimes this happens in divorce mediation when one person has had all the power in the marriage, whether that person knows it or not. Sometimes it’s a person who had no power in the marriage and enough is enough. Sometimes it’s when one or both people are being given advice by others; sometimes these others are professional and some times not. Others are likely to give advice that is agreeable to the one they’re talking with, because few friends and others want to agree with the position of the soon-to-be ex-spouse. But by being supportive, they can also do them a disservice, because the person believes even more strongly that she or he is “right.” If being “right” is more important than reaching an agreement, mediation is doomed. The couple goes on to court, spending thousands, sometimes tens or hundreds of thousands on attorneys. If they win, it’s a hollow victory, because they’ve made an enemy out of an ex-spouse, or even worse, the father or mother of their children with whom they need to co-parent.

What can be done to prevent this impasse in your divorce mediation? One can appeal to a higher value. For most people that value is preserving a parenting relationship for the sake of the children. Or it is minimizing stress, mental and emotional damage, and recovery time from the divorce. For others it is simply getting the cheapest divorce possible, because alternatives like getting the perfect decision in their favor is either impossible or impossibly expensive. To “win” in a divorce usually means to lose in the long run. Compromise for important reasons is better, often much better. Divorce mediation works!

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