divorce mediation: mutual self-help

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The newest Nolo Law in Plain English podcast was posted yesterday, and asks the question Do Dads Get a Fair Shake in Divorce? (with Paul Mandelstein, author of “Always Dad: Being a Great Father During & After Divorce,” (Nolo). The podcast “discusses issues of custody, fairness, ‘right speech,’ and the effect of past actions on divorce decisions.”  (Oct. 7, 2006, 12 min.)  Although it’s a good one (ask ethicalEsq), I don’t want to opine on the question presented by Mandelstein.  Instead, I want to suggest that divorce (or custody/visitation) mediation can often be the best way to create a parenting plan that is fair to both of the parents and to the child, while avoiding some of the worst aspects of litigating family law issues. 
  

To me,* divorce mediation can be seen as “mutual self-help” for couples with children who have separated.   The Alaska Court System mediation page has an excellent introduction to mediation, and what it can and can’t do for a divorcing (or otherwise estranged) couple.  It’s answer to the question What is Mediation? is a good one: “Mediation is an informal, voluntary and confidential way to resolve disagreements without giving the decision-making power to someone else, like a judge. A neutral person, called the mediator, helps people: figure out the important issues in the disagreement; explain and understand each others’ needs; clear up misunderstandings; explore creative solutions; reach acceptable agreements.”  Most important: “The mediator does not tell the parties what to do, or make a judgment about who’s right or wrong. Decision-making stays with you.”      
 

You can find information about mediation at the websites of many courts.  Use our SideBar to help locate relevant webpages.    Nolo’s Divorce Mediation FAQ and discussion Will Divorce Mediation Work for You? are also worth a look, if you are considering using mediation.          

Beyond asking “Do you want to send your children to college or your lawyers’ children to college?”, there are two points that I always made to my divorce mediation clients that are worth repeating: (1) it always helps to know the law when you’re going to be negotiating legal issues — so, seek out self-help materials or advice from a lawyer before sitting down to mediation.
. . . . . And, (2) divorcing is much more a personal and family crisis than a legal crisis, and very few people know instinctively how to do the job of parenting after separating — so, do some “two home” homework, for your sake and your child’s.   There are a lot of good books about parenting after divorce.  There are also some websites with good, practical advice, such as Parents are Forever, hosted by Dr. Shirley Thomas, author of the excellent book of the same title.   You might also consider my own short monograph, Tips for Parenting Apart, which discusses the goal of creating a “businesslike” co-parent partnership and includes quite a few Do’s and Don’ts.  Also, many court and private sources have seminars and programs about co-parenting (with names such as Children in the Middle and Parenting-Apart.  Please consider taking them, and remember that a bad co-parenting situation can often start to improve even when just one of the parents (and it’s usually the more reasonable one) takes one of these courses.         

  

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* Admittedly, I’m biased on the issue of litigating vs.mediating divorces (even though retired): Volunteer work for the D.C. Superior Court “Multi-door” Family Mediation program, in 1987 and 1988, led me to switch from antitrust to family law, with the goal of creating a divorce mediation practice.   Then, representing scores of children in Family Court custody and visitation disputes, and in contested divorces, gave me a close-up view of how wrong-headed litigation (and lawyers) can be in such cases — while my own mediation practice demonstrated that even two angry people can very often be helped to reach agreements that, for the sake of their children, they both want to make successful. 

3 Comments

  1. Kerry Chey Jones

    November 3, 2006 @ 1:43 pm

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    A looming divorce can be stressful on anyone and in the heat of the moment people who once shared love and respect can do terrible hurtful things to each other. If care is not taken during this stressful time, divorcees can find themselves in hot water later on down the track, worse still it is possible that serious damage can be done to an individual’s credit rating. LEARN how you canProtect your credit before the divorce.

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  2. shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress » Blog Archive » post-valentine divorce self-help

    February 15, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

    2

    […]  Divorce Mediation:  In our posting “divorce mediation: mutual self-help,” you’ll find a discussion of the advantages of using mediation to resolve divorcing issues.  Mediation can work for couples who seem far apart on many issues, so long as they both sincerely want to split in a civilized manner (to avoid “the divorce from hell”) and want — even if reluctantly — to find a resolution that will lead to a finalized divorce.   If your courts have self-help centers, they are very likely to offer information about mediating divorce and other family law disputes (often called “alternative dispute resolution”). […]

  3. howard

    March 7, 2007 @ 7:23 am

    3

    Mediation is an informal, voluntary and confidential way to resolve disagreements without giving the decision-making power to someone else, like a judge. A neutral person, called the mediator, helps people: figure out the important issues in the disagreement; explain and understand each others’ needs; clear up misunderstandings; explore creative solutions; reach acceptable agreements.” Most important: ”The mediator does not tell the parties what to do, or make a judgment about who’s right or wrong. Decision-making stays with you.this article is very interesting for Divorce Mediator, click on the link
    to find similar article Divorce Mediator

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