How does divorce mediation work?

In the divorce mediation process, rather than each party hiring separate attorneys, there is one “advocate” for the couple whose job it is to be an impartial guide through the process.  The goal is to arrive at a fair and equitable solution to all of the issues involved in the divorce.  The process strives to be fair and amicable, rather than litigious and adversarial.

Historically, most Divorce Mediators have been attorneys, whose training and experience enables them to discuss the legal and financial aspects of support and custody issues.   There are many talented family law attorneys who can be very helpful in dissolving a marriage, and I have referred many of my clients over the years to attorneys for both litigated divorces as well as mediation.

However, over the last twenty years or so there has been an increasing number of Divorce Mediators who come to the field from a psychological background rather than the law.  The advantages that a psychologist brings to the table derive from our training and experience in mediating relationships in both marriage counseling as well as in separation counseling.

The nuances of any relationship—be it one year or 40 years—are ones that psychologists are trained to understand and work with. Indeed, the focus of the training and experience that a psychologist has is, by definition, focused on the emotional components of relationships, as well as the often complex dynamics among married couples and their children.

Integrated Divorce Mediation Process (IDM)

In my approach to divorce mediation I recognize that there is often a need to have a combination of psychological, legal and financial input.  Therefore, I have developed the approach of Integrated Divorce Mediation (or IDM). In IDM I do most of the mediation, but I encourage each member of the couple to consult their own attorney– and sometimes their accountant– to review the projected settlement. Thus, each person will know that from a financial and legal point of view they are signing off on a document that is fair and equitable to both parties.  I have a number of highly qualified and experienced family law attorneys, forensic accountants, CPA’s and Certified Family Divorce Accountants to whom I refer.

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1.  Psychologically, the goal of Integrated Divorce Mediation is to develop a cooperative process in which both parties feel they have had their point of view heard and respected.  The focus is on cooperation between the couple to resolve all of their issues, whereas in a litigated divorce there is an adversarial procedure in which it is structured as “me against you”.   In IDM there is an expectation of mutual respect that the mediator tries to foster throughout the process, so that at the end of the day the parties can proceed with their lives with a minimum of hurts and resentments. In other words, during this process I attempt to change some of the ways in which couples communicate as they move on with their lives.

You might wonder how this can happen,when the reason the couple is divorcing is exactly because they had been unable to communicate properly for so long.  Good question.  My answer has everything to do with the structure of mediation versus litigation:

When the parties have their own attorneys, it is structurally set up to be an adversarial process, which perpetuates the character of the relationship that has resulted in divorce in the first place.  Each person has their own counsel, and all important communication and decision making passes through the attorneys, rather than in face to face interactions between the couple.  As a psychologist trained in interpersonal relationships, I try to help each person express their frustrations, their angers, and their trust issues in a way that the other person can hear and be heard, without the old responses of defensiveness that inevitably derail any chance for constructive communication.

 

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2. The second advantage of Integrated Divorce Mediation is purely financial:  One doesn’t need to be a genius to understand that hiring one mediator is generally much less expensive than hiring two attorneys.  And in most cases, the savings is even greater, because the process itself is less likely to generate the kind of contentiousness than in an adversarial relationship, which can result in generating more issues than necessary.

To summarize:  Unless there are unusually complex financial issues, or a level of hostility that prevents the couple from sitting in the same room together, Mediation has a great deal to offer to most divorcing couples:  the opportunity to process the dissolution in an amicable, fair and equitable way; a method that emphasizes cooperation rather than contention; and a financial advantage that generally leaves the couple with far more resources with which to proceed to the next phase in their lives.  Finally, and often most importantly, when there are minor children involved, there is a greater likelihood that a smoother divorce process can help in the transition to the next chapter in the family’s life.

Final Thoughts

I hope you can take some time to read more about my background and how I work with couples, so that you can make a knowledgeable decision in choosing what direction to take in pursuing your divorce.  I know that this is a very emotional and stressful time in your life, and if you choose to work with me I will try my very best to help you get through the process with as little stress and discomfort as possible. You are welcome to check out my other website that I developed many years ago for my psychology practice:

drjimlinden.com

Regardless of your path, I wish you and your partner the best in moving through this chapter in your lives.