The Mediation Classroom—Learning for a better future

May 7, 2020

The divorce mediation process creates a special opportunity to provide couples with information that will facilitate their decision making.

Couples often come with limited knowledge regarding specific topics under discussion. More often than not, I hear my clients say, “We’ve never done this before (get divorced), so we need help to understand the steps we need to take to end our marriage.” Fortunately for them, the mediation process offers a classroom to facilitate the beginning of a transformation from uncertain and under-informed to informed and confident as a decision maker.

Becoming fully informed can be especially critical for divorce mediation clients who choose not to utilize consulting attorneys before or during the mediation process.

In a consultation, I explain that there are at least two ingredients to making informed decisions:

  1. A basic understanding of the legal framework that applies to separation and divorce, particularly in the areas of equitable distribution (division of assets and debts), child support and spousal maintenance
  2. Full financial disclosure by both spouses to facilitate each having as much of a complete understanding as possible of the current economic partnership as a married couple

Mediators are often asked questions related to fact or process, like mortgage refinancing. More importantly, many questions are an invitation for the mediator to explore the reason for the question as a means of a client’s coming to a better understanding of her/his priorities and needs.

For example, when a client asks about whether a child support agreement can be modified at a later date, it offers me a chance to explore what the parent’s concerns may be about future financial arrangements for the children.

The mediation “classroom” promotes discussion of the resources available to assist a couple in making informed decisions. This can include written resources, Internet resources, or professionals in specific fields whose expertise is needed for a more complex matter beyond the skill-set of the mediator. Sometimes, specific information will be needed from a specific source, like the current mortgage lender or retirement plan administrator. During mediation, we can frame the questions to be asked so that the appropriate information can be acquired and reported back at the next mediation session.

Our classroom is also used to promote brainstorming of ideas where we learn from each other about the possibilities coming forward from within ourselves. When asked, I will use this opportunity to share ideas that other couples I’ve worked with found useful to resolve a particular issue, and encourage the couple to develop their own list of options that may work best for them.

As a mediator I take on numerous roles, acting not only as a neutral who helps couples plan for their futures apart, but also as educator to give clients the information they need to be able to make decisions they can be comfortable with.