Essential elements of mediation

Essential elements of mediation are two:


“Willingness to disagree” might seem a no-brainer. After all, if you were not disagreeing, why would you want a mediator? However, disagreement can be very painful. People feel tension with conflict, and conflict in personal matters can be especially painful. Conflict over the children, conflict over the house, conflict over child support, conflict over alimony–OUCH!

A good mediator will not try to avoid the discomfort and the messiness of conflict. If you avoid the conflict, you will avoid a clear resolution of your life issues. You will avoid your obligations to yourself, your self-determination.

Surprisingly, the ability and the willingness to express, to articulate, your disagreement –to tell the other just why you disagree– opens up better possibilities for agreement.

You must bring yourself to have a willingness to stand up for yourself. The mediator cannot do that for you. The mediator can encourage, support you, keep the other party from irrational attacks. But it is your life.

A stalemate is better than an unfair agreement that favors one person at the expense of the other. It is safer to disagree if one has doubts. Be sure to take time to consult financial advisors, lawyers, parents, and friends before signing a final agreement.


Well, golly, why else would a person go to a mediator if one were not willing to come to an agreement? Could one be using mediation just as a tactic to drag out the divorce process? Some people cannot tolerate the thought that the ex will not be suffering enough. Some just hate it that the ex will get on with life just fine without “me.”

In the longest-running mediation I had– one couple that first came once a week, then twice a week– it seemed to me he was avoiding closure. So I arranged for us to meet with their marriage therapist (whom they had seen for seven years) to conclude the process. Husband signed. Then wife started an objection to signing. These people, I came to think, were addicted to conflict.

The adversary process does not allow the possibility of mutual understanding. Airing of grievances is so important to future peace of mind, and is essential to clear the air for mutual parenting of children.

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