Over the years, I’ve heard judges, courts, and attorneys say time and time again, when there’s domestic violence, there is no mediation. It’s totally inappropriate and they will not participate. In the past, I respected their opinions and said, “I can understand. I can’t guarantee the safety of a victim of domestic violence at a mediation session, and I don’t want to put them at risk.”
But as time went on, I decided that refusing to mediate a divorce case where there is domestic violence doesn’t always make sense. And here’s why: You have someone who has been abused in their marriage. They want to get divorced from the abuser. By refusing mediation, you are putting them into the litigation arena, where it’s going to take years of battling to get them divorced.
I’m not suggesting that all domestic violence cases should be mediated. But there are some that can.
In domestic violence cases, there is usually an order of protection and a no contact order. That means the couple is no longer living together. However, I can:
- Speak to them separately;
- Send separate emails;
- Have separate phone conversations; and
- Work out the terms of their settlement agreement.
Unlike litigation, in a month or two, we’re done, the papers are filed, and tension has been reduced because the couple is not being thrown into the divorce mill. The acrimony and potential for another incident of domestic violence would be increased by torturing them with years of litigation.
I’ve successfully mediated a number of domestic violence cases. For the most part, it has been very positive and the clients can’t thank me enough because they know that most mediators don’t want any part of domestic violence cases. However, I impose certain conditions on the couple, such as:
- They must be living apart
- The must obey the order of protection
- They will not contact each other by phone or email
I am now actively engaged with the domestic violence community and working on a way to convince judges that, in certain cases of domestic violence, mediation can help reduce tension, allow the couple to get divorced quickly, and decrease the chances of another incident of domestic violence.