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What Understanding Can Do

December 19, 2018  | 

{3:30 minutes to read} I had a meeting recently with a couple, and when they left, I felt sure they would not be returning for another meeting.

The husband didn’t want to separate, didn’t want to leave their home, and couldn’t imagine not having the children with him at least half of the time.

The wife was insistent on separating, be it through mediation or through attorneys, wanted to be the primary custodial parent, and insisted on the sale of the home.

Their financial situation was very challenging, which only served to make the husband more resolute that they should just stay together. Both were angry, sad and anxious about their futures.

Custody and what to do with the house were clearly the biggest issues, and we addressed them first. With questioning, the parties explained their points of view, their interests were framed and we generated options. But they both steadfastly continued to be positional, and neither would consider an option other than what each wanted when they began. I sent them a summary of the meeting and homework, but I suspected I would not be seeing them again.

A few weeks later, I was surprised when they scheduled a meeting. I was even more surprised when they arrived at my office, with an energy between them which was palpably different, in a positive way.

The wife asked if she could start, and she began by saying that when she read the summary she realized that she hadn’t given enough consideration to the emotional significance of the house for the husband. She recognized that ending the marriage and asking him to give up the house immediately was more change than he was ready for. They were then able to agree upon a plan for the house that both could accept.

Then, when we moved on to the issues of parenting that the husband had refused in the last meeting, he admitted that he now agreed with the wife that equal custody at this point was not best for the children. He was willing to try a different access plan initially, and they both agreed upon benchmarks when custody could be revisited.

To my further surprise, it was clear that they hadn’t discussed anything on their own in between our meetings. Rather, upon reflection of what the other said during the meeting, they each came to an understanding of the importance of the issue to the other. That kind of understanding likely would not have been possible if they had been speaking through their attorneys rather than to each other.

Understanding may not happen in the moment and you can have a contentious first meeting, but hopefully with an opportunity to reflect, this level of understanding can pave the way for cooperation and agreement. 

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

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

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