Austin Area Counselor, Chesley C. Swanson, LMSW
Divorce mediation by definition is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Simply stated it is done with an impartial third party who assists the divorcing couple in negotiating thoughtful agreements about how they will separate their assets and how they will co-parent their children through the years after the divorce, instead of asking a judge to decide their fate. Divorce mediation is not family therapy; however a divorcing couple may benefit from utilizing a trained family mediator who also has therapeutic skills and an understanding of family systems, communication, diversity issues, and the dynamics of relationships.
A divorcing couple will most likely get a more compassionate and workable outcome from a mediation style referred to as interest based negotiations. In contrast to the more traditional positional approach to mediation, interest based negotiations takes into consideration the long range goals and the interests behind probable positions, as well as compassionately addressing the concerns of both spouses.
Spouses who are divorcing often tend to be positional and on occasion attempt to pull in family and friends to “rescue” them from their spouse. As well as the dynamic of triangulation; some strong unwanted emotions such as fear, pain, resentment, anger and anxiety will be present in a discussion between divorcing spouses about what is to come of what they have created together in the marriage. Even though deep healing and analysis for each spouse is best done in therapy, a brief acknowledgement and normalization of negative emotions without dwelling on them, by a professional trained both in divorce mediation and family dynamics, can be a constructive catalyst toward solutions that serve both spouses and their children. Once triangulation and unwanted emotions are acknowledged and normalized, the spouses are more likely to be able to move on and focus on the goals of the mediation process. Also a professional with this combination of training will be able to ascertain when a longer break than a few minutes is most beneficial for the process.
Although it is important to have realistic expectations about plans for the spouses and children’s lives after the divorce, both parents and children of divorce have needs and desires which are important to explore in decision making about their futures. When the divorce mediator allows divorcing spouses to make these needs and desires, as well as the interests of all concerned a priority in their negotiations, the outcome is more likely to be more successful and less costly.
Traditional war-like divorces can not only be financially draining but also emotionally damaging to the family. Once children are involved the potential damage is magnified. Even though divorcing spouses might not like to face the fact; once a couple has children, they are bound for the rest of their lives. While children are growing up, they have many situations in which it is best for both parents to be involved to some extent, such as medical and educational decisions. Thousands and thousands of dollars of families’ financial resources are not only spent fighting in the court system over the couple’s property, but also about issues regarding their children. This practice is not only costly financially and psychologically to the adults, but also detrimental to their children’s emotional wellbeing.
Utilizing a divorce mediator who uses interest-based negotiation techniques even when the couple first makes their decision to divorce and before making any filings in the court system, is a way to circumvent excessive costs and potential emotional damage. Mediation with a trained mediator who also has therapeutic training is potentially even more beneficial for the family.
Access more information from Austin area counselor
Chesley Swanson at www.ParentingSpecialist.com or email her at: chesley@ParentingSpecialist.com,
or call: 512-784-4888