This Little Known Step Can Change Your Divorce.
Do All Roads Lead to Divorce?
Divorce is tricky. For some, it is the obvious next step for both individuals in the couple. More commonly, a couple is not on the same page when it comes to making the decision to get divorced, but because one person is certain, they forge ahead. In both of these cases, it is natural to immediately lawyer up and prepare for battle. But, there’s a step in between that often gets overlooked. It’s what I call the “fluttering moment.”
Before diving into a mediation, I ask my clients if they’ve actually decided to pull the trigger. It may sound silly since they reached out to me as a divorce mediator and expressed their intention to part ways. But this is the moment most people miss which is a crucial introspective step that as a mediator I always recommend my clients take. It can change the trajectory of the divorce.
Why? In my experience couples seeking assistance are usually in very different stages of the divorce mindset and process from each other, and sometimes both are far from actually moving forward with a divorce. You would be surprised at how often the answer to my question is a little uncertain and wavering. Typically, there’s one partner that was ready yesterday and is eager to get things going. The other is either ambivalent or not ready to go ahead with the divorce. Sometimes, when given the opportunity to answer my seemingly obvious question both parties are not so sure that they actually want to put a divorce in motion. They know things can’t stay the same but they don’t know what else to do. One way to navigate this standstill is through mediation. Mediation….to stay married.
What Is Mediation To Stay Married?
How can a divorce mediator assist couples who aren’t sure they even want to divorce? As mediators our goal is to help couples open the lines of communication, resolve any disagreements, solve specific action-oriented problems and get the parties to mutual agreement. If a couple indicates that they think it may be possible to address some of their concerns and they would like to try, we may proceed with marital mediation.
Marital mediation is still very much under the radar but it can be a valuable tool in the divorce process. Even if a couple decides to eventually divorce, marital mediation may teach them more about each other, opening up the lines of communication and respect and making the entire process more seamless.
Why and How Does Marital Mediation It Work?
Marital mediation can work because the couple is given a set time frame with a certain number of sessions. At the conclusion of these sessions, a couple must decide how they want to proceed. This encourages action and decisiveness. If the couple does decide to shelve the divorce route, the mediation process itself can teach them valuable tools for conflict resolution that can be useful when addressing future road bumps in the marriage. Additionally, a well thought out agreement is drafted with a viable action plan that encourages participation and mutual responsibility by both parties.
Those same communication skills can be used to the couple’s advantage if they decide that divorce is the right decision after all. Part of marital mediation is discussing the divorce route and what it entails. Getting a clear picture of what their actual post-divorce life will look like is extremely important. Many times, a couple has unrealistic expectations so it’s vital to paint a true picture for them.
Marital mediation sessions are usually two hours each with a maximum of five sessions. Each session is divided into 4 30-minute blocks with the first and last blocks meeting with both parties together. The middle blocks are reserved for one-on-one sessions with each party. As with traditional divorce mediation all meetings are confidential.
Couples are given homework and guided plans on how to proceed and constantly evaluate which path they are leaning towards. Resources for couple’s therapists and other important professionals are provided as well.
I believe the best people to handle the divorce are the parties themselves. They know first and foremost how they should proceed when it comes to their kids or the finances. That is why mediation is such a valuable resource. The power is in the party’s hands – as it should be.
Since martial mediation is based on getting to the solution rather than casting blame, it allows the parties to take a step back and analyze everything in front of them before deciding to actually divorce. A couple may also gain invaluable communication skills that they never knew they had before. This is especially important for the co-parenting relationship of couples with kids who decide to divorce.