There are two fundamental approaches to dissolving your marriage.
The first, most common approach is divorce litigation. This is when you and your attorney square off against your former spouse in front of a judge to determine child custody, child support, alimony, and other issues. It’s a contentious, painful process that is expensive—not only in attorney fees—but in the cost to you, your children, and your emotional stamina.
There is a second approach that is slowly gaining traction, and that is called divorce mediation. The end result is the same: your marriage is dissolved. But the process is smoother, and ultimately less costly, both to your checkbook and your sense of wellbeing. Studies show mediation is easier on your children, too. Choose divorce mediation and you will also skip the angst of going before a judge.
As a licensed attorney in Connecticut, I can handle both divorce litigation and divorce mediation. Over the years, I have gained a significant appreciation for divorce mediation. Here’s why.
Years ago, when I represented individual clients in the traditional divorce litigation setting, it was very difficult to remain objective. I could only hear my own client’s side of the story. I could only understand his or her position or perspective on the marriage and events leading up the divorce. I viewed the other spouse as the opposing party, the enemy, the adversary. That means I often viewed the opposing attorney in the same light. This enforced blind spot was necessary; it was the only way to ensure my client would prevail. The downfall was my objectivity carried its own limitations, ultimately hindering my problem-solving skills. As with most rigorous advocates, I became part of the problem.
As my career as a divorce attorney evolved, I discovered divorce mediation and the significant benefits of being the neutral party who brings two disparate sides together.
Now, after years of practicing mediation and applying alternative dispute resolution skills to conflict, I can easily recognize the same blind spots I once shared with litigation counsel and divorcing spouses.
The best part about having served in both arenas is my belief that there is a better way to ending a marriage. Both parties don’t have to go on the attack. They don’t need their day in court to see justice served. They can protect their privacy, their children, and their dignity as they end one part of their lives and begin another.
I find my role as a neutral mediator to be much more productive, efficient, and effective. As a neutral observer, I can hold one party’s “truth” in consideration and reflection until I hear the other party’s “truth.” There is often a core of truth in every story.
One reason why marriages end is because both parties lose the ability to communicate effectively with each other. More often than not, the biggest conflicts stem from misunderstandings or misconceptions of what was really being said. While the words themselves hurt, delivery and tone creates havoc as well.
When I take the time to reflect on what was being said, when I consider the pivot points of communication and then share what I heard, or what I think I heard, clarity results.
What I’ve learned, and what I encourage my clients to do, is to apply time and patience to process what is being said. This opens the opportunity to be understood. This process often leads to acknowledgement and has a dramatic calming effect on both parties.
This is how it works.
When one’s truth is finally accepted or acknowledged by someone who truly listens attentively and purposefully, validation occurs. The dialog can then be clarified or re-framed to convey the core meaning of what was intended.
By establishing a neutral dialogue that focuses on understanding the meaning behind the words, the conversation shifts toward mindful communication. This in turn creates the opportunity for collaboration and a shared understanding of what each party needs.
The mediator sets the tone, the pace, the tempo for even and balanced constructive negotiations.
Mediators are adept at active and mindful listening. Then we model that behavior for our clients. This is critical, because the only way to resolve problems is with open and honest dialog that allows each person’s truth to emerge and be heard.
My experience over the years with both divorce litigation and divorce mediation has shown me that mediation is significantly less stressful on divorcing spouses and their children. It is also more likely to lead to terms that both parties can live with and reduces the likelihood of winding up back in court. If you are considering divorce mediation and want to know how it can help in your situation, call my office today at (860)986-1141 to set up an appointment.