Knowledge Base

Mediation: A Last Resort for Some


April 1 2004
Written by CMDR Staff

Mediation a Last Resort for Some

Couples arrive at the Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution (CMDR) from different paths. Therapists make client referrals, former clients send friends, others find CMDR in the Yellow Pages or on the Internet, and at times, a couple will enter mediation as a last resort, all else having failed.

The “so-called last resort” couples have been battling for what seems to them like decades. They have submitted to depositions and subpoenas. A court appointed guardian ad litem has evaluated them as well as their children. Their funds are frozen; their emotions are raw. To say the least, they are battling with feelings of anger and fear.

“We could not be in the same room, let alone talk to each other.”
“I stayed up nights, replaying in my head all the horrible lies his lawyer was promulgating.”
“A friend suggested mediation; it had worked for her. But could it work for us? We had disintegrated beyond reasonable hope, hadn’t we?”

Clients like this enter mediation at “their wit’s end”. Mediation becomes a last ditch effort. Will mediation be their knight in shining armor? Quite possibly.

One of the first things couples notice when they come to CMDR, following a failed litigation process, is their ability to voice their opinions to each other in an environment where they feel safe. There are times when spouses are still so angry and hostile towards each other that they need to be in separate rooms during mediation. However, once they begin to deal with concrete, real life issues rather than emotions, they can start to engage in strategies and solutions for the present and the future. Often couples who begin seeing the mediator separately, end up problem-solving together.

CMDR mediators encourage couples to talk in order to devise ways to structure and reach an equitable settlement. Furthermore, at CMDR, the mediation process is highly structured. The first mediation session is educational relative to all of the areas of law that need to be covered in order to create a comprehensive, long lasting divorce agreement.

Once they have been educated on the mediation process and the law, couples create their own “roadmap” as to what they will tackle first. If they have children, they may start with custody and child support. If they own a substantial amount of property together, they may start with property. Mediation is driven by the couple who determines how quickly or slowly the process goes. Unlike litigation, mediation has a foreseeable end. And, once all of the areas are covered, the mediation is over and the agreement complete.

Another benefit of mediation is the way couples feel once they have finished. After mediation is over, the Centre for Mediation sends out client surveys to help better serve clients in the future. Following are some recent comments from past mediation clients:

“I have recommended mediation to friends primarily so that individuals have a full understanding of their agreement.”

“Mediation pushed us both to focus on our own practical, day-to-day needs, and to think through what we wanted for our new, separate lives.”

“The meetings were difficult at times, but Lynne (CMDR director, Dr. Lynne Halem) helped us keep focused on the task at hand.”

“Our mediator continuously diffused or contained potentially messy emotional stuff, kept the past in the past, and helped me feel safe enough to say what I wanted, which has always been a problem for me.”

Finally, if a marriage cannot be saved, hopefully the individuals involved will choose mediation instead of litigation and experience a divorce process that offers them dignity and fairness.

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