Would you be a good family mediation client?

Couple arms crossed

Would you be a good family mediation client? I always say that any conflict can be resolved in mediation. The personalities of the client can, sometimes, make the job of the Mediator more difficult.  That’s where the skill set of the Mediator and process delivery options become important. If your Mediator is ready to throw in the towel then it’s likely to be them, that have exhausted their resources, rather than you, the clients, who have chosen the wrong conflict resolution process.

Before the Family Mediation

But, let’s face it, some people are more cut out to have the process work best for them. Let’s have a look at who these people are. Typically, by the time couples come of a Mediator to resolve their family issues, their communication skills, with one another, have been compromised. I call it the ‘cyclical conversation’ where there is a statement, and restatement, of each persons beliefs and positions. The conversation rarely moves forward from there. Each spouse is consistently retelling and not feeling heard. The substantive issues are not being addressed and, often, clients don’t really understand what those may be. Motivated by fear of the unknown, there’s a constant messaging to their spouse, to accept certain ideas that may or not even be valid, from a family law perspective. It’s a statement of what seems ‘reasonable’ to the teller.

How Family Mediaiton Clients Start the Process.

So, by the time these spouses dawn the door of their Mediator, they are entrenched in their positions, filled with anger and resentment, and close-minded to accepting any kind of resolve that may not be exactly what they want to see as an outcome. That’s fine. As Mediators that’s exactly what we expect. Often, however, the communication in the Mediation room moves from positioning to resolution options. It’s often thought that because spouses re-learn how to communicate effectively with one another, in family mediation, that this exercise can help to rebuild communication skills that were lost, over time. Especially important, if you have to co-parent, after the ink on your separation agreement is dry.

During the Family Mediation

A good family mediation client would be willing to understand that their resolve lands somewhere in the land between their position and their spouses position. Sometimes, each spouse can get what they want (yes, win-wins are possible in mediation). Or it could be that both parties need to compromise to get to a middle ground. Either way, anger and fear need to subside, enough, to able to access the logical mind to work towards resolution. It doesn’t mean you have to ‘give in’.  Often there are solutions that couples don’t think about.

Sometimes, I ask my clients (especially if they are still living together) to not discuss their separation agreement issues at home. Talk about who takes the kids where or how dinner is going to be arranged that evening, instead. Save the substantive work for the mediation room. For a family mediator, there’s nothing like two spouses, who are working well together, to leave the mediation room feeling like they can do it on their own, and come back to mediation, after heated discussions and cyclical conversations at home, to have the Mediator have to ‘in-do’ all that positioning, all over again.

Throughout the Mediation

So, in closing, I would say that a good family mediation client is someone who is willing to trust the process and to trust their mediator. In the end, my job is to get you to resolution, using whatever process tools are at my disposal. You have to trust my judgement in helping you to get there.

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