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You Never Know What May Make a Divorce Mediation Difficult

December 5, 2017  | 

{3:42 minutes to read} I was talking to a colleague recently about a mediation. She was surprised that it took as many meetings as it did to reach a resolution and that the couple almost terminated the process. It was a relatively short-term marriage of a few years, and they had no children, so she had not expected that it would be difficult.

I agree that expectations of difficulty are often misleading. At an initial consultation, I can only judge a mediation’s difficulty by the dynamics between the couple and the few things that they say before I can remind them that it’s only a process discussion. But appearances can be deceiving when unexpressed fear, anxiety, and hurt are lurking in the background. And that can arise no matter how brief the marriage or how uncomplicated the financial situation is.

In a short marriage, the assumption might be that, since they were not together that long, it shouldn’t be a difficult mediation, but that is false in at least a couple of ways. First, the short length of the marriage doesn’t mean that they are not experiencing a loss of someone loved, counted on and relied upon for emotional and financial support. It also ignores the fact that they likely had a relationship before they married. The act of marriage doesn’t make all the other time spent together meaningless, and the feelings from your pre-marital relationship are bound to have an effect on your mediation.

Moreover, no matter the length of the marriage, the fact that the parties have no minor children means that there are fewer topics to discuss, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the mediation process is easier. The loss still exists, along with the fear, anger, and anxiety that typically accompany that loss.

Often, the couples themselves fall into that trap, telling me that theirs will be an easy mediation. But no one can necessarily anticipate the emotions that are likely to arise and make a topic that seems to be straightforward on the surface, devolve into a difficult conversation:

When discussing support, the person who makes less money may suddenly come to terms with the fear that his or her lifestyle may change. 

When we discuss what will happen to the marital home, the fear of living without the other person suddenly becomes a reality. 

How they have been paying their household expenses can bring up a surprisingly angry response, because underneath the anger is the hurt that a spouse refused to share a bank account and combine incomes. 

No matter the length of the marriage, an affair can bring up anger masking the hurt, guilt, and shame just below the surface. 

If these emotions arise in mediation, the mediator can help you address them in a constructive and understanding manner so that they don’t prolong the conflict and inhibit you from working toward a resolution. 

Clare Piro Attorney and Mediator

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

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