February 1, 2006
Written by Staff at The Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution
The Best Couples for Divorce Mediation Are…
A repeatedly asked question—Am I a good mediation client? Or am I right for mediation?
However you word the query, the question essentially remains the same. Is there a workable profile of individuals who would benefit from mediation? Are they just individuals who have no real issues to negotiate? Or those who are good friends, having just drifted apart over time? Or are they couples who have no assets? No money? No children?
None of the above answers the question. Mediation clients, like the rest of the divorcing population, cannot be stereotyped. Some are wealthy and have many assets; after all having a high net worth often makes negotiations easier, not harder. Some have children and some do not. Some have good working relationships and others can barely sit in the same room together; indeed some cannot sit in the same room, requiring the mediator to see each one separately.
The following classifications represent our attempt to group CMDR’s 23 years of divorcing clients into generic categories:
Those who have had extended legal negotiations, even litigation, and enter mediation because they are worn out by the process, drained by the moneys spent, and angered by the lack of results. This group is one of the most interesting because its members are typically those who would shun mediation at all costs. To them, their divorce is too complex or perhaps too antagonistic. They can only envision each other having an armed warrior at the helm. The conversion to mediation represents a striking change. Time, money, and most of all, lack of results have culminated in their dramatic change of mind and heart. Despite their still believing their divorce has its own unique properties, they are worn out enough to think that perhaps there is another way—a way in which they might end their battle.
Those who are proud of their ability to parent together and wish to preserve this relationship for the sake of the children. This group is not composed solely of the so-called friendly divorcing couples. The salient feature here is that both parents are very good at their parenting roles and recognize that solo parenting is not as effective or as beneficial for their children as being able, even after divorce, to co-parent. Mediation here is very much for the sake of the children. In the process, however, most of these couples discover that the benefits of mediation extend far deeper than its custodial aspects.
Those who believe that mediation will allow them to develop co-parenting techniques that will be in the best interest of the children. This group is also in the “for the sake of the children” cluster. However, here the goal is about learning new techniques for after divorce parenting. Because this group is dedicated to learning and collaborating, they benefit greatly from mediation, often learning problem-solving techniques that they can carry with them after divorce.
Those who are problem solvers by profession or nature and prefer a process, which engages them in structuring a settlement. This group is often composed of those who are involved in deeply conflicted and antagonistic divorces as well as those who work easily and well together to solve problems. The central ingredient here is the ability to approach problems analytically. The division of property and the obligation for support are viewed as questions to be answered after the facts are marshaled and analyzed. Often couples in this category produce the so-called miracle settlements. “Who would have thought that those fighting two would have mediated their divorce?” group.
Those who do not want to turn over the decision-making to others, preferring to have an active voice in the settlement. This group overlaps with the problem-solvers, although at times it is not their problem-solving ability that is their core feature; rather it is their refusal to bow to others. This is a group who is self-confident in their own abilities and willing to learn what is necessary to determine their own future. Not surprisingly, they are highly successful with mediation and highly satisfied with the outcome.
Those who believe that participation in a collaborative process will be an educational process; this group is composed of the natural learners. Despite their sadness, anger or whatever emotions are tied to their divorce, they believe that divorcing requires their participation, as a couple, not as individuals. They, too, benefit from mediation and are highly successful participants.
Those who feel that they have been disenfranchised during the marriage and believe that mediation will empower them for single living; this is a group in which one party enters mediation almost reluctantly and fearfully. These individuals do not feel confident in their own problem-solving abilities and often feel that their spouses are more capable than are they. They, too, are the amazing miracle clients. When this group acquires the knowledge and skills needed for separation and divorce, they are motivated to greater and previously unsought of new heights. Their post divorce changes in family and work are often noteworthy.
So march the clients of CMDR, an impressive group, whatever their characteristics. At a time when they are the most hurt and frightened, angry or weepy, they resolve to work at crafting a product that will be good for the family unit. This, in and of itself, is an amazing accomplishment. To sum up, the answer to the question, am I a good mediation client, is usually, yes.
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