Divorce is like any other area of law in that our clients are trusting us to provide them guidance and support. It seems like people feel like their attorney’s words are worth their weight in gold. In divorce, however, we must be even more careful about what we say than in other practice areas. As a divorce mediator, I have found that people who come to my office are vulnerable. For many of them, this is their first marriage (and therefore a first divorce). They have most likely been hurt and they have no idea what to expect.
As a divorce mediator, it is my job to try to understand the facts and circumstances in the case in order to help the couple reach the most beneficial outcome for them. In doing so, I want to listen carefully and use my words very wisely. If I don’t, it is possible that unnecessary conflict and stress could result. As a client, it will also be your job to do your best in communicating the issues in your case to your mediator as clearly and concisely as possible.
Here are some tips to avoid creating unnecessary conflict:
1. Stay in the Present Moment:
In my line of work, I hear stories from all different types of people. I hear about why they are angry and sad and I also learn about why their marriage has broken down. Although it can be valuable to share this information with your divorce mediator, it is also important to consider the present moment and focus on moving forward. Therefore, when telling your mediator your story, focus on what may be relevant to the outcome of your case. For example, infidelity may be relevant if it will illustrate that there has been a break down in trust. This will put your mediator on notice that the financial disclosure process should be handled with extra care.
It is also important to try to leave prior conversations out of the mediation room. Many times, when couples are discussing what they plan to do with their assets and debts outside of mediation, they become angry and say things that they don’t mean. If these conversations occur, try not to bring them up during your mediation appointment. During your mediation, you should assume that everyone is ready to move forward and make new decisions. You are in a comfortable, yet more formal environment where it is now safe to have these conversations.
2. Don’t Make Threats:
When you sign up to start mediation, you should be making a commitment to settle your case out of court. While you have full control over the outcome in your case, you should still be prepared that it may not come out exactly as you envision it. Sometimes mediation involves a great deal of compromise and some lengthy negotiations. If things start to get a little bit difficult, try to avoid threatening the other person with litigation. This detracts from the safety of mediation and tends to make the other person less open.
3. Ask for a Break if you Need It:
In addition to being an attorney and divorce mediator, I am also trained in Neuroscience and the effect that language has on the brain. Often, when people are angry or afraid, their ability to make logical decisions shuts down. If you feel like you are getting frustrated or angry, it is a good time to ask your mediator for a break. This will give your brain time to re-boot and will put you back in a position where you feel ready to make decisions again. Think about this – you wouldn’t want to buy a car while angry. You shouldn’t make any big decisions in mediation in this mindset either.
4. Avoid Accusatory and Derogatory Language:
As mentioned earlier, we can certainly appreciate that you are probably angry and sad. This is a divorce. Even though mediation is a much more humane way to get divorced, it is still painful. Despite your feelings about what may have happened in the past, try to do your best to avoid using language that you know will upset the other person. Remember, you are both working together to create the best possible outcome for your future lives apart. Trying to harm the other person with your words will only take you further away from your true intention.
At Alternative Divorce Solutions, our team of attorney-mediators will guide you through the divorce process without creating any unnecessary conflict.