A crucial element of the mediation process necessitates an appreciation for breaking apart every piece of information and creating jigsaw puzzle pieces that may not be put together until all of the pieces are created. This can be frustrating as there may not be an ability to reach a resolution about certain topics without a fuller discussion about another topic. Therefore, things can seem continuously unresolved. However, the cyclical nature of mediation is a crucial aspect of a successful process.
The primary categories in any divorce are two-fold: children and finances. Within these two broad categories are a multitude of topics to identify, illustrate, and analyze. On the issue surrounding children, there is decision-making, nesting, parenting time, work schedules, children’s schedules, transportation of the children, future residences and geographic restrictions, communication, and introduction of significant others. Regarding financials, there is division of assets and liabilities, identification of marital and separate property, allocation of child support and spousal support/alimony, college expenses, insurance, and tax consequences.
Each of these topics requires gathering and sharing relevant information so that the parties are fully informed of the facts as to each other’s perspectives as to what is fair and sensible. Each party identifies their needs and interests, articulating what is important to them so that both the mediator and the other party can develop an understanding of the other’s concerns. Options may be generated but likely not solidified until moving to the next topic and doing the same process—sharing information, understanding each other’s needs, and articulating interests so as to reach an understanding of the other person’s perspective. In this sense, divorce mediation is not a linear process; it follows a cycle of steps that involve identifying the issue, collecting the data, discovering each other’s interests, formulating options, assessing those options, and then reframing the issue or identifying a new issue—on repeat until all the issues are exhausted.
For example, there are times when a parenting schedule cannot be determined until the parties’ residences are determined, which cannot be determined until there is a resolution about the marital residence. This does not necessarily mean that a discussion surrounding parenting is altogether tabled. On the contrary, the issue is thoroughly discussed and analyzed, with the interests and needs of the parties being communicated. Reaching success on a topic is measured by one’s deeper understanding and ability to articulate one’s interests, even if that means there is not a solution yet.
The topics within the two broad categories (children and financials) are interdependent and become more commingled the longer the parties have been married. Mediation allows the parties to disentangle the familial web one string at a time. This requires patience and appreciation that there may not be any solution until multiple topics are discussed.
Attorneys at Berner Law and Mediation Group want our clients to take control of their own futures. As the mediation progresses, pieces of the puzzle will naturally come together, while other pieces will require multiple analyses before finding a place in the puzzle. Mediation is the epitome of self-determination, creativity, and empowerment. While it takes time and patience to work in the cyclical structure, the beauty of the process is that no outcome of the puzzle looks the same, and the goal is to reach the best outcome for the family.
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