I shouldn’t fault attorneys that don’t understand mediation. When they attended law school, they weren’t taught about mediation or alternative dispute resolution. Attorneys are trained in dispute resolution now, and I have been invited and have spoken at several law schools on the topic of mediation.
Law schools trained lawyers to do what lawyers do: Argue, get evidence that help them argue and then argue some more. Just the opposite of mediation, right? That is why our professions are so different.
As a mediator, I try to help couples resolve their disputes by cooperating and working together.
My doctor is 70 years old and has a very successful and financially lucrative practice. The last time I spoke with him, he said, “I have a question for you. I know what kind of work you do and that you deal with people’s problems.” He continued, “I have something on my mind that I want to ask you.”
I said tell me more. He explained that, despite his successful career, he had one major regret. “My one regret is that I didn’t spend more time with my children while they were growing up. Instead I put all my time and energy into my career. I missed their childhood. Now that they are older, I don’t have a very good relationship with them because I really never spent a lot of time with them.”
I understand that with any working parent, there is always a push-pull; that trade-off between earning a living and managing time so that you don’t miss your kids growing up. You’re trying to be there for them and build this incredible relationship, while still investing in your job and building your career. Continue reading
Usually, I only ask for retainers when there is a lot of work to do by phone. In situations where it is counter-productive for the husband and wife to be in the same room together, speaking to them separately by phone is a necessity, including calls to their attorneys, in order to move things along.
I once had a case where I told the client, “I don’t usually charge for emails and phone calls.” The client started emailing me regularly. By the end of the month, I had received 83 emails, and had a better understanding of why some mediators charge for emails and phone calls.
When I was first trained as a mediator through an internship at NYU, I was sent to a government agency to see how they resolve disputes. I worked with the head of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Department. He was going to show me how he resolved disputes, using mediation. He planned to introduce me as his co-mediator, however, he also made it clear that he was pretty much going to be driving the bus. He said, “I’m going to show you how we do things around here.”
Two women came in the room. One woman was bringing charges of harassment against the other. She was really aggressive, loud and banging her fist on the table. She threatened to start a lawsuit and go after monetary damages. The other woman started yelling, too, and pretty soon we had pandemonium. It was hard to keep control and calm them down, so my trainer put them in separate rooms. Continue reading
When addressing basic child support (food, clothing and shelter), mandatory add-ons, and discretionary expenses in the Settlement Agreement, we say, “While there is no statute directing you to pay for your child’s college education, something like a SUNY clause, capping your contribution to education at a State University of New York tuition rate, is an obligation most parents and courts are comfortable with.”
“So if I’m paying for room and board at college, why should I pay for room and board at home? Isn’t that paying twice for the same thing?”
Generally, most attorneys will say, “Double shelter allowance. My client should get a reduction in child support for their share of room and board expense at college. Why should my client have to pay room and board at the home where the child is not living when they are living at college?”
As we approach the Chinese New Year, I thought it would be timely to share a bit of philosophy with you all. As someone who has been involved with studying martial arts, Buddhism, Tao Te Ching and Confucius philosophy, I have attended many lectures. One lecture I particularly remember was a teacher explaining a passage of the I Ching (inevitability of change, yin and yang, fortune telling). He said the following regarding the difference between pride and modesty:
The I Ching teaches that pride is like a mountain. It’s high, solid and imposing and doesn’t let anything in. It does not allow the acceptance of others and their points of view. It will not let all possibilities exist for it does not accept opposite points of view.
Do not rush to judgment. Do not be like the mountain.
After negotiating labor contracts, representing a trade union, and arbitration, I decided that maybe divorce mediation was the way for me to go. I was very excited about mediation. I took lots of training, but with no experience, I was looking for words of encouragement. New mediators get very excited about their new career and are looking for people in the business to inspire them, and to say, “Yes, we can!” Remember that?
I had taken a law training at NYU and called one of my law professors who was involved in dispute resolution. I said, “I just have to ask you something. I am very excited about being a new mediator and specializing in divorces. What can you tell me that will kind of put me on the right track?” Her response: “Keep your day job.” I was really taken aback by this. “What do you mean ‘Keep my day job’? I want to be a mediator, make a career of mediation.” She said, “There’s no money in mediation, forget about it. Go find something else to do.“