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Why Do Divorcing Couples Mediate?

December 6, 2016  | 
Why Do Divorcing Couples Mediate? by Clare Piro

{3:18 minutes to read} After my initial mediation training, I developed a sense of why I thought clients would choose to mediate their divorce. Since I was so invigorated by the knowledge of this amazing process, I assumed they would choose to mediate because they wanted to engage in a process in which they could learn how to communicate their interests to each other and then brainstorm creative resolutions to meet those interests in a collaborative and non-adversarial setting.

When I actually began working with my own clients, needless to say, I was a little disappointed to learn that the primary reason the vast majority of my clients gave for mediating their divorce was to lessen their costs. Not that I minimized the fact that cost is a very legitimate reason to mediate, but I unrealistically expected that clients would recite those same lofty reasons as caused me to choose to no longer practice in an adversarial setting and become a mediator.

Of course, most clients, in addition to reduced costs, would also provide some of these reasons as to why they chose to mediate:

  • They wanted a speedier process.
  • They didn’t want to deal with matrimonial lawyers.
  • They wanted to make their own decisions and exercise control over the process.
  • They wanted to avoid conflict now and in the future.
  • And, most importantly, they wanted to minimize the harm to their relationship and to their family.

I also learned their reason(s) depended on when I asked the question. At an initial consultation or at the beginning of the process, cost might be one very significant, if not the sole, motivation. That makes sense, because without really understanding how mediation works, it may be difficult to understand the benefits, like the:

  • Informality of the process;
  • Desire to focus on the future rather than on blame for past actions;
  • Desire to honor their past lives and shared time together; and
  • Wish to preserve goodwill and to understand what was important to the other and why.

And while the motivation to mediate may initially be monetary, it can also change and develop over the process as clients understand the full benefits.

Whatever the particular motivations of the couple or whenever the question of motivation arises in the process, they should be discussed initially and throughout the mediation. When a difficult conflict arises and the parties are ready to give up, a reminder from the mediator as to why they are there and what they hoped to achieve can help get past that hurdle.

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

Attorney & Mediator
500 Mamaroneck Avenue | Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
Tel: 914.946.0848

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Comments
Charlotte C
December 8, 2016 - 10:17 AM
There are a number of important insights here, and so clearly expressed. Your point about motives and intentions changing over time is so true, and is a reflection of how different mediation is from more adversarial processes. I would love to learn more about the long term impacts, if any, of mediation clients' experience of new ways of negotiating and handling conflict. My experience is also that people are often not very self aware during the times of crisis, and that most people are not aware of process as separate from their own experience. As mediators we are so focused on process and analysis that we can easily forget that most people do not share out world view -- and don't need to!
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