What Can You Resolve in Mediation?
You can use Mediation to help you resolve almost any type of conflict. So versatile is this process, it almost makes more sense to ask “when it is not appropriate to use it?” Throughout history, Mediators have helped countries avoid and end wars. They have facilitated the release of hostages. They help companies and labor unions avoid strikes and engage in productive collective bargaining. Landlords and tenants often turn to Mediation to resolve lease and rent disputes. Neighbors can use Mediation to help them coexist more peacefully. And, of course, litigants of all types – companies, individuals, governments, and organizations – use Mediation to help resolve lawsuits at every level of our state, federal and local courts.
So, when you are faced with the profoundly difficult challenge of restructuring your family through divorce or separation, there is help available. The Peaceful Path of Mediation is open to you.
Let’s look at some of the most common issues divorcing and separating couples address and resolve every day, all over the world, through Mediation.
For most divorcing or separating parents, there is nothing more important or more challenging than the creation of a safe, healthy, and sustainable Co-Parenting Plan. In our Peacemaking practice, we intentionally use the term “Co-Parenting” instead of “Custody” because we believe it more accurately reflects and respects the relationships parents want and need to have with each other and their children following divorce or separation.
No matter their children’s ages, parents who come to Mediation almost always seek help creating a Co-Parenting Plan that supports healthy and loving relationships between their children and both parents. This includes: deciding where the children will live and attend school, ensuring the children have sufficient, quality time with each parent, and establishing expectations about relationships the children will have with others, including extended family and their parents’ new partners. Co-Parenting Plans can also address your shared financial responsibilities for the children and agreements about how you, as co-parents, will make important medical, educational, religious, and other decisions on behalf of your children.
Mediation is a powerful and efficient way to develop a Co-Parenting Plan that meets your entire family’s unique needs.
Division of Property, Assets, and Debts
Restructuring your lives following divorce or separation will almost certainly raise questions about what to do with the property, assets, and debts you acquired and shared during your lives together. This includes physical things, such as furniture, household items, artwork and jewelry, pictures, cars, and other tangible items. It also includes financial assets such as bank accounts, investments, cash, retirement accounts, pensions, and other sources of money and income. In addition to sharing money, couples also often share debts, including credit cards, mortgages, home equity loans, business loans, student loans, and many other types of financial obligations and liabilities.
When couples turn to the Courts to divide their assets and debts, the Courts use formulas, guidelines, and legally proscribed “factors” to allocate them between the parties, all based on the Court’s view of what is “fair and equitable.”
When you choose to resolve these questions through Mediation, you and your partner/spouse can fashion an agreement based on your interests, and the specific needs of your family. With the help of a skillful, experienced Mediator, your possibilities will be limited only by your creativity and flexibility.
Mediation empowers the people who know best – you and your partner/spouse – to make the rules!
Spousal Support, Alimony, and Child Support
Often, couples who are divorcing or separating wonder if one or both might need ongoing financial support from the other, either to support their own basic needs going forward, or the children’s.
When Courts resolve these questions, they use pre-set formulas, guidelines, and legal rules to determine if either party is entitled to financial support from the other and, if so, how much and for how long.
When you choose to resolve these questions through Mediation, you and your partner/spouse can fashion an agreement based on your interests, the specific needs of your family. With the help of a skillful, experienced Mediator, your possibilities will be limited only by your creativity and flexibility. Mediation empowers the people who know best – you and your partner/spouse – to make the rules!
What to do with the House
One of the most common, difficult, and emotional challenges divorcing and separating couples face is, “what will we do with our house?” If you own a home together, will one of you continue living there? If you sell the house, how will you share in the proceeds? Will one of you “buy out” the other’s equity? Can either of you afford to remain in the home after divorce or separation?
It is easy to become overwhelmed and confused by all of this, especially if one or both of you has a strong emotional attachment to the house. And if you have children, these questions can be even more complex and consequential, as decisions about the house could affect where the children will live and attend school.
For many couples, their house is their largest and most important investment or asset, which means decisions about its value, sale, or continued ownership are deeply connected to other important questions about the family’s finances and security.
Mediation offers an empowering, efficient, structured, and flexible process to help you and your partner/spouse decide for yourselves what to do with your house.
It is up to you!
Mediation offers couples who are separating or divorcing a safe, structured, confidential, guided space in which to reach agreements about a wide range of issues and challenges they are facing. When you choose Mediation as your Peaceful Path, you get to decide which issues and questions you will discuss, and what agreements you will attempt to reach.
Some people use the Mediation process to attempt to resolve all the issues and questions they are facing as a divorcing or separating couple. Others use the process to address only a few – or perhaps only one issue that they are struggling to resolve.
Couples can also choose when to begin their Mediation process. Some begin shortly after they decide to divorce or separate. Others come to Mediation later in the process, perhaps after attempting to resolve their issues on their own or in court. In fact, people who have experienced expensive, contentious, adversarial litigation are often the most motivated to explore more peaceful alternatives.
When is Mediation NOT Appropriate?
While Mediation is an extremely versatile and flexible process that people can use to resolve a wide range of disputes, including very contentious and emotional conflicts, every process has its limits. There are some conflicts that cannot be resolved appropriately with Mediation.
Mediation can only work when both parties – and the Mediator – can participate fully, freely, and safely. There are circumstances that may prevent a party from enjoying full, free, and safe participation in their Mediation, including:
- Untreated substance abuse or addiction;
- Untreated mental illness;
- Abuse, threats, violence, or coercion of any kind (verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, financial, etc.); or
- Severely diminished capacity.
To better understand the types of circumstances under which Mediation is inappropriate, consider the Four Pillars of Mediation. Mediation can only occur if all Four Pillars are strong and solid. That means both parties, and the Mediator, must be able to participate voluntarily, without fear of threats, harm, reprisals, or coercion, and with full capacity to freely enter and end the process. It also means both parties must be able to understand and abide by the rules of confidentiality. And because Mediation is party-driven, it can only occur when both parties have sufficient capacity and ability to make decisions on their own behalf and to understand the consequences of their choices. Finally, Mediators cannot maintain neutrality or confidentiality if either party is exploiting, threatening, or harming the other.
It is important for Mediators to try to learn of any such circumstances before beginning a new Mediation. I will only agree to begin a new Mediation when I am confident that both parties are able to participate fully, freely, and safely. If these circumstances become evident to me only after the Mediation has begun, I will stop the process.
If you are unsure whether you and your partner/spouse will be able to both participate freely, fully, and safely in the Mediation process, you may consider discussing your concerns with a trusted therapist, counselor, or attorney before deciding if Mediation is the right path for you and your partner/spouse.