Mediation: Good For Me, Good For You, and Good For the Kids

Posted on February 15, 2012 by

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So let’s say you’re in a “what’s in it for me?” stance when the option of mediation is broached. It’s reasonable–you’ve been through a terrible time in your marriage, and you don’t want to get taken for a ride.

You’re really stuck: That jerk from the previous post told you for all those years he couldn’t take you to Hawaii and now. . . .! You WILL make him pay. As you ruminate on the Pacific-Island Betrayal, you’re more and more tempted to call your lawyer–true he costs $700 an hour after his $10,000 retainer (you nearly passed out when he said it, after thinking your hearing had gone–BUT. . . he swears a blue streak and pounds the table when he gets worked up) and sic aforesaid lawyer on your soon-to-be ex-spouse.

Satisfaction and Better Post-Divorce Relationships

But that might be shooting yourself in the foot, just for the satisfaction of some colorful language and watching your ex writhe. Researcher Lori Shaw in her study entitled “Divorce Mediation Outcome Research: A Meta-Analysis,” published in the summer 2010 issue of the Conflict Resolution Quarterly, found, after surveying a number of cases, that mediation yielded more satisfaction with both the divorce process and the divorce outcomeon both sides–and a better post-divorce relationship with the ex-spouse.

In short–you’ll be happier if you mediate, and be better able to reconstruct some sort of relationship with your ex-spouse, rather than stewing in hate–and isn’t that what you really what you want, as much as you think you want revenge?

Saving Money

Now, a topic dear to our hearts. What makes most of us happier than saving money? Money and happiness are forever intertwined in the American psyche. [Among my mother's major moral teachings to her children was the never-to-be-broken, "Never buy retail!"--we would suffer indignities, possibly the poorhouse--and, of course, unhappiness at the error of our ways.]

Well, according to Money magazine’s July 2005 edition, an average mediation costs between $3,000-$10,000 (usually on the lower end), split between the two parties equally. By contrast, litigated divorces, with one attorney on each side, average $35,000, and, if you take it all the way to the courthouse, extra costs range between $20,000-$50,000.

So you’ve saved yourself–and yes, your bozo ex, too, but that’s part of the process, learning not to go for the jugular just to hurt another–a pretty penny if you mediate. It’s good for both of you.

Better Meets the Children’s Needs

telling children a secret

But that’s not all. Let’s return to the topic of the children. Shaw’s study also showed that those who mediated felt that their children’s needs were better met through mediation than through a more typical divorce process. And that really brings us full circle us to our biggest concern–that our children be alright. Looks like they might have a better chance to succeed if you mediate than if you go the lawyer route and fight tooth-and-nail for each penny in your divorce settlement.

So. . .looking like you might have to forego the divorce decree.

But, you think, I don’t want this jerk raising my children. He cheated on me!

I have news that might have been shocking in a different era, but which makes perfect sense to our jaded sensibilities.  The court does not view having an affair as any sort of qualification for declaring a parent unfit, either for custody or visitation. Cheat away, they say, as far as parenting ability is concerned.

Better Cooperation Regarding Raising the Children

I do understand that you might think your ex is hardly fit to pick out his own boxer shorts (but, never fear, his Hawaiian playmate will step in to fill your place–although she’ll never do it as well, I’m sure, dear), let alone raise your children, but your thoughts will not  jive with the court’s. So you and your ex-husband are bound together for a very long time by the task of raising your shared children.

Thus while it’s true you can try to think of every stupid thing he might do and put it in the divorce decree to try to stop him in an adversarial divorce setup (“Lawyer! Write that he can’t walk around in his underwear in front of the teenage girls. Write that he must provide a drink in the house beyond Diet Sunkist. Write that he can’t call the slut he’s marrying ‘Pookie!’ Oh! Put in there that he may never let my lovely daughter Louise actually call herself Lou-Lou and become a dancer. And. . .”), but it’s unlikely the decree will go through, you’ll look ridiculous–and how can you enforce it anyway? Can you really imagine taking your ex back to court again over a bottle of soda?

So, here’s my advice. Skip the divorce decree, with its demands and its efforts to control. You are going to have to learn how to work with this man for the sake of your children’s sanity, and it’s time to start–now.

Robert Emery, Ph.D. (more on him a bit later), after much experience researching mediation, published in his book The Truth About Children and Divorce a number of fascinating facts, but get this one: After only 5 hours of mediation at the time of divorce, a full twelve years later “the residential parent. . .who mediated, consistently reported that the non-residential parent discussed problems with them more and participated more in the children’s discipline, grooming, religious training, errands, special events, school and church functions, recreational activities, holidays and vacations.”

You want cooperation on his part in raising the kids, right?–and particularly grooming, given your 10-year-old son’s habit of showering bi-monthly–not always with soap? You want him to consult and discuss with you the problems of raising your brood–get your opinion, right? Then you might just have to forego that pound of flesh.

Sounds like, hard as it is to sacrifice the desire for it–it might be time to let go of the idea of revenge (and, clearly, any Pacific Island vacation), and sit down at the table  with this, well, let’s try to cut down on the name-calling now. Because, no matter what else he is, jerk, cheater, liar, you name it–he is also, and always will be, your children’s father, and that is one of the biggest reasons why you should try to work with him to make some sort of peace–and bring a sense of order and safety back into the lives of your kids.

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