There is More to Divorce Mediation Than Just Divorce:
As a Newport Beach divorce mediation lawyer, I have the opportunity to work with all different kinds of people. These people have different backgrounds, level of education, perspectives, values, and philosophies on life. This is one of the things that makes the work of a divorce mediation attorney so fascinating. There are really no two cases that are exactly alike, just as there are no two families that are exactly alike.
That being said, the dynamic nature of the family can also make the work a challenge. A divorce mediation attorney has an extremely important role in the divorce mediation process. They are a neutral third party that assists the couple through one of the most stressful and emotional times in their lives – divorce. Research actually shows that divorce is one of the most stressful experiences a person will go through in their lifetime next to the death of a loved one. Needless to say, that means that your divorce mediation attorney will need a great deal of emotional intelligence, as well as situational awareness.
There are a lot of factors that take place during the divorce mediation process and often, they are all taking place at the same time during the divorce mediation appointment. Emotions are obviously running high, while there are power dynamics and differences in how the couple views each issue that have to be managed by the divorce mediation attorney in real time. Based on all of these things that can occur in the moment, I have put together a list of things that divorce mediation attorneys should be thinking about during the divorce mediation process, and things you should expect of the person helping you.
As I mentioned above, there are a great deal of emotions that have to be managed during divorce. There can be anger, resentment, bitterness, fear, sadness, and depression. There can be yelling, fighting, crying, laughing, bickering, and everything in between. A lot of family law attorneys talk about seeing good people at their worst. However, divorce mediation attorneys work with both spouses at the same time. This means that both people who are hurt and upset are in front of the mediator. Both need to be heard and want to be validated in some way, shape or form.
While the mediator is not a counselor or therapist, he or she should be sensitive enough to show you compassion during your time of need. The clients are in a time of crisis in their lives and may not be acting and reacting the way that they would under normal circumstances. Knowing this helps the divorce mediator keep perspective on the situation and makes them more effective.
2. Ability to Manage Power Imbalances:
Although there are many examples of how this may arise, there is one classic example that comes to my mind. This is a case where one spouse is an attorney and the other spouse is not a member of the legal profession. Therefore, the non-attorney spouse enters the divorce mediation process fearing that his or her spouse will have some kind of a bargaining advantage because of his or her law degree. In divorce mediation, however, this will not be the case.
It is the divorce mediation attorney’s role, as a neutral, to level the playing field. This can be done in a number of ways, but having a firm handle on the process is a very effective tool. The mediator must set boundaries for how the process will go, and ensure that the couple participates in the process that the mediator has created. This will ensure that neither one of the spouses will control the way the mediation appointments are run. In addition, it is possible that one spouse may need more information to get up to speed than the other. When this is the case, it is up to the divorce mediator to take some extra time explaining things to that spouse. While this occurs, the other spouse must be patient and the divorce mediation attorney must remind both spouses that this process will not compromise his or her role as a neutral.
3. Social and Emotional Intelligence:
There is a part of divorce mediation that is a science, and there is a part of it that is an art. The art piece cannot really be learned, but it can be developed over time. This is the divorce mediation attorney’s ability to read people’s emotions and level of comfort. As a Neuro Linguistic Programming (“NLP”) Practitioner, and a Life Coach, I have spend years learning skills like listening for tone of voice, watching body language, and reading facial expressions. These tools help me recognize when a person might be uncomfortable. As divorce mediation attorneys we aren’t expected to be mind readers, but we are expected to pay attention to non-verbal clues that someone may be upset or uncomfortable. A high level of social awareness and emotional intelligence helps with this a great deal.
If you are thinking about divorce, try divorce mediation first. Our Alternative Divorce Solutions team will be by your side to guide you through the process.