Unfortunately, mediation is still not as well-understood as it should be, and many people still believe that the only way to resolve their legal issues is to hire the toughest lawyer in town. That’s unfortunate, because spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees is not only unaffordable for most people – it’s completely unnecessary in the vast majority of cases. Read on to learn more about the myths and realities of mediation!
Myth: A mediator might force us into making final legal decisions about our children’s futures and our financial settlement.
Reality: Mediators cannot, and never should, force their clients into anything at all. A mediator should function as a neutral, impartial third party with subject-matter expertise and advanced conflict resolution skills. While a skilled mediator will guide the parties toward a fair resolution of their legal issues, the ultimate responsibility for decision-making rests with the clients.
Myth: You help people reconcile, right? I heard that mediation is the same thing as couples counseling.
Reality: No, and no! This is a very common misconception, but this myth is absolutely false! In couples counseling, the goal is to work on the relationship so that the couple can stay together. In mediation, the goal is to bring closure to a separation by finalizing an agreement on issues like parenting, support, and property division.
Myth: Mediation wouldn’t work for us because we already have lawyers and have already been to Court.
Reality: Mediation can work at any stage of the proceedings. While many separating couples do choose mediation as a first step, others choose to work with a mediator because they have grown dissatisfied with (or can no longer afford) the legal/court system, and are looking for an alternative process which they feel may better meet their needs and bring them closure more quickly. Many of our clients have come to us after many years in the “system” and have had great success resolving their issues – their only regret is not coming in sooner!
Myth: Mediation only works for “amicable” ex-couples. Our level of conflict is so high that it would be impossible to resolve our issues in mediation.
Reality: We have helped many high-conflict couples succeed in resolving their legal issues in mediation! A few have even been in the system for years, and have been weeks away from trial. As long as both spouses want the conflict to end, feel fed up with court, feel safe in the mediation process, are prepared to make full financial disclosure, and are open, in theory, to the idea of making an agreement with terms within the realm of what is legally reasonable, mediation can be a very effective process for any separating couple.
Unfortunately, the court system fans the flames of conflict, so in these situations it is necessary to work very hard in mediation to undo some of the negative patterns that have become entrenched, but it can be done to a reasonable degree. In these situations, trust and friendship may not be realistic goals, but it is possible, with hard work, to create a workable, businesslike, tolerable “new reality” for the sake of the kids. Even the highest-conflict exes can usually agree on not wanting to ruin the kids’ childhoods, and on wanting to avoid a trial!
That’s it for now, but we’ll be back soon with our second instalment of Mediation Myths and Realities, to answer questions such as: Can things you say in mediation be used against you in Court? Does choosing mediation mean that you can’t use lawyers? If my situation is amicable, can I simply negotiate my own separation agreement rather than use a mediator?
In the meantime, if you’d like more information about our process, contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss whether mediation could work for you.