I don’t think mediation will work for us.
Most people DON’T think that mediation will work for them. They are skeptical about trying to talk things out one more time. Most don’t trust the other person. They think, “If we were going to be able to talk things out, we would have DONE that already. We’re past that. Communication is worse than ever now.”
Doubt is common.
However, over 70% of the people who mediate in divorce or custody cases reach agreement on all or most of the issues. Most of them are surprised.
Skepticism and doubt are common initially. But they don’t predict what will happen, since over 70% reach agreement on some or all issues.
What is it about mediation that works... people
People are curious.
When parties arrive at mediation, they frequently haven’t spoken to each other directly in weeks or months. They often get information second or third-hand: from the children, family members, common friends, neighbors, or copies of letters from one attorney to the other. Much of what they think they know is rumor. If they have talked directly, conversations may have accelerated quickly to yelling or hanging up the phone.
They want to be heard.
Often, parties have something they want to say to the other party. They come to mediation wanting that opportunity.
They have questions they want answered.
They have common concerns.
Although they may disagree on how to handle them, they often have common concerns about the children and about their own futures.
They want their situation resolved.
They want to make decisions themselves and put their problems behind them.
Things feel out of control and they want to have a say in their future.
Even when they are doubtful, most people hope they can use mediation to make decisions affecting their lives and futures.
What else works about mediation... the mediation process itself
In mediation, people get to talk together at a time when they rarely have a chance to talk together.
They make decisions on what they want to do.
In our district, the mediators in over 80% of the cases practice facilitative or transformative mediation.
The parties generally remain together and are given an opportunity to talk together. The mediators do not recommend solutions. These mediators have the skills necessary to help people have the difficult conversations they would like to have but have not been able to have on their own. What can happen when people begin talking together can surprise everyone involved.
In general, when people can talk face to face in a neutral setting, they feel heard by the other, they hear new information, and they often clear up misunderstandings that have exacerbated their situation. This often sets the stage for better talking and listening than they have had in a long time. People usually gain a greater understanding of themselves, each other, and their situation. That in itself is a remarkable benefit and can help people begin to ‘move on’ emotionally and legally. It can also help people shape an agreement acceptable to both.
Many people in divorce experience a swirl of different emotions. They can be hurt, angry, or afraid. They may feel betrayed and hopeless. They may be stubborn, and their goal can range from ‘pie in the sky: I deserve everything’ to ‘I’ll give up anything to get out of this situation.’ Often, the emotions and the unfinished business of the relationship or situation are actually the glue that keeps people stuck and unable to reach agreements on their own. Face-to-face mediation can provide an opportunity to be heard, set the record straight, clear up misunderstandings, etc. Parties can benefit, and feel less stuck, when they talk directly, whether they reach agreement or not.
In fact, parties often benefit even when they reach no agreements. For example, a woman leaving a divorce mediation session recently stated that she was glad they had mediated, even though they had only reached agreement on one issue. She said, “I had a chance to tell him some things I haven’t been able to say before this.”
Without mediation, most parties would have no other opportunity to simply sit down and talk.
At the very least, mediation provides that opportunity at a critical time in their lives. When attorneys attend mediation and use it as an opportunity to negotiate the settlement while their clients watch, this opportunity for closure between the parties is lost.
In addition, research indicates that another benefit of face-to-face mediated agreements is that they are much more specific than attorney-negotiated settlements or court decisions. Researcher Joan Kelly suggests that this can contribute to the higher levels of satisfaction and lasting agreements reported in mediation samples.
Mediation: It's your solution.