New Leaf Family Blog


What is Mediation, Really? (And Do I Want It?) - Part I: On Your Terms

Posted by Penn A. Dodson | Sep 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

If you are enmeshed in the divorce process or are otherwise facing a conflict situation, somebody may have suggested that you go through “mediation.” (Some people misread it and think they've been invited to meditation, and start envisioning solemn chants in a quiet room. Mediation is not that.)

The basic gist of mediation is that you and the other party meet with a neutral third party who attempts to facilitate a resolution between you. This may follow one or another format, which we'll get to in a minute.

But first let's talk about why it is (or isn't) a good idea to consider going through mediation in the first place. 

Your Terms, Not Somebody Else's

The outcome of a successful mediation is an agreement. In an agreement, you can (with certain exceptions) include pretty much any kind of term you want. This is not what happens in court. To oversimplify, in court, the judge can pretty much only order a few things – the payment of money from one side to the other, who gets custody, and what parenting time looks like, whether somebody should go to jail, and a few other specific things. For example, if you think about a civil sexual harassment case, if the victim wins, what does she get? Money. She doesn't get to sexually harass or otherwise victimize the perpetrator back. She doesn't get a time machine to go back and re-live all those days she effectively missed out on because of the trauma. She (at most) gets a check.

In a divorce, the court's primary task is to changes the couple's legal status from a thing called “married” to another thing called “unmarried.” Divide up property, establish and order a parenting time schedule.  Pretty mechanical stuff when you boil it down. And often not at all what you want, what is best overall, or even what your ex wants. It's decided along legal principles and precedent that were established based on other people's lives.

However, if you can come to agreement as to a better way to structure things, more often than not the court will adopt it (so long as it meets certain criteria). Problem is, often couples who are divorcing are (surprise surprise) not all that inclined to – or capable of – agreeing with each other. Hence why getting an outside person to help facilitate that often makes sense.

Part 2 – The Process

In Part 2 of this Blog, we'll discuss the process of mediation.  Sometimes people avoid mediation because it is a great unknown, or because it sounds a little “woo-woo,” or some other reason that is based in a lack of understanding.  We'll pull up the curtains, so you can decide for yourself.

New Leaf

As you probably know if you've participated in any of our programs or have been reading our other blogs, at New Leaf our focus is on empowering you to make the best decisions you can for yourself and your family. We believe that, especially when combined with other self-development work like our Decision-Transition-Equilibrium training, mediations can be a very effective tool in getting to a resolution. They're not the only tool, but they are often a good one and we like to help you put as many arrows in your quiver as we can.

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