When parents come to court with a dispute over children, such as allocation of parenting time, most of the judges in northern Illinois counties will insist that the parties make an effort at resolution of their issues through mediation. In my experience with high conflict cases, mediation is usually not a useful approach at resolution of cases; the disordered or angry party will often refuse to participate in the mediation appropriately. However, in some cases where the parents are not in a high degree of conflict and are otherwise looking to reach a resolution, versus a court battle, mediation can be effective. So what kind of approach is best to bring to mediation?
1. First, communicate with your attorney beforehand. As a mediator myself, I spend time with my clients coaching them on the mediation process and how to best use mediation to work toward resolution. It’s important for me to hear my client’s concerns, so I can provide clarification, validation, and direction. It’s also important for me to develop an agenda with my client to make sure that mediation is effective, and that goals are set and fully in mind before the mediation begins.
2. Be effective. Only do or say those things which will be effective and help you move forward. Being effective means advancing toward goals which are consistent with your interests and principles.
3. Be respectful. The mediator is not the judge, and is there to help find a middle path or resolution; using mediation to increase conflict will not be of benefit. Try to remember that a divorce is a very difficult transition for both of you, whether it’s emotional, financial, physical, or all of the above. It’s unlikely that the two of you will be able to process information the same way and the same time. Trying to rush or malign the other party is not just conflict enhancing, but it’s also counterproductive to problem solving.
4. Listen. One of the areas that I coach my clients on is being as good of a listener in the mediation, as a talker. Being a good listener opens pathways to explore areas of resolution. From a tactical standpoint, being a good listener will allow the other party to more freely put issues or agendas on the table that might have been previously unknown. It is always important in any mediation or negotiation to know your opponent’s obvious, and hidden, agendas.
Mediation, in a collaborative or low-conflict case, can be an effective tool toward resolution of disputes,. But, without proper preparation and goal setting, mediation can be a more lengthy or more frustrating process than it need be. To learn more about mediation generally, take a look at mediate.com, and feel free to call my office to discuss your important case and to explore whether mediation is right for the initial stages of your case.