The Empowering Aspect of Mediation
One of the most fascinating aspects of mediation is how the process can transform someone who feels reticent or insecure in decision making.
At the initial consultation, clients often say that they are concerned that within the process of mediation they may not “get a good deal” and question if they are able to mediate because they do not have the same financial expertise as the other party, or perhaps the other party is more educated or has more business savvy. Whether these feelings are real or perceived, they can be a barrier to the client’s ability to feel comfortable with the process and secure that the decisions they make are sound.
I try to reassure clients that within mediation, they can obtain all of the help and guidance they need in order to make decisions that are good for them and your family.
You can have a consultation with an attorney before you begin mediation so you have an idea of your legal rights and responsibilities, as well as discuss terms of settlement you can propose in mediation. You can continue to consult with the attorney during the process if you like or even bring your attorney with you to the mediation if you feel that you may need that support and it is agreeable to your spouse.
You can also meet with a Certified Financial Divorce Planner who is trained to help you make a budget and assemble the financial information you will need to proceed with the divorce, as well as educate you in terms of financial matters so you feel comfortable in the process. This person can also participate in the mediation if it would be helpful and both parties agree.
By way of example, I saw a client as a consulting attorney who was in the process of mediation. She had attended a few sessions, and they had reached tentative agreements on most major points, but the client was unsure and uncomfortable with the terms and her ability to make ends meet, but said she did not voice them in the mediation because her husband had a much stronger personality.
I advised her not only as to the law but as to how she could voice her concerns in the mediation and offer alternatives. I also referred her to a Certified Financial Divorce Planner, both so that she could feel comfortable asking questions that she was afraid to raise in the mediation and also so that the Planner could assemble written backup to show how untenable the terms her husband proposed would ultimately be for her.
I strongly urged to the point of insistence that she only return to mediation with either the Planner or me in the session. I thought that the Planner would be more acceptable to her husband, and she agreed.
Six months later she returned for a consultation with a very different plan and a very different voice. She seemed like a different person from the woman with whom I first consulted. She even came armed with a table showing how her future costs for medical insurance would cripple her financially, a chart that she devised herself with no help from the Planner.
We not only discussed what she would propose but how she could propose it in a way that would enable her husband to hear it and consider it rather than dismiss it out of hand.
She told me that the mediator suggested that I attend the next session, and when I asked what she thought of it, I was thrilled to hear her say that she didn’t want me to attend. She wanted to do this on her own and felt that she was capable of advocating for herself at this point. She did in fact do so, and the parties did reach a mutual agreement in the best interests of both parties and their children.
Had she gone to an attorney who didn’t recognize how a person can achieve knowledge and the empowering aspect of mediation, that attorney likely would have told her that she should not be in mediation and needed an attorney to advocate on her behalf. She probably would have ended up with a similar settlement, less extensive legal fees of course, but she never would have gained the strength and knowledge of being her own advocate.
Doing what you need to do to empower yourself to make good decisions is something that will be to your benefit not only during the mediation but when it has long since passed.