About a year ago, I mediated a divorce case with a high conflict couple. What was unusual about this case was they agreed to all financial terms before meeting with me. The difficulty was coordinating the process of getting an annulment, which sometimes we call a “Catholic Divorce.” Getting them to agree to meet with the priest for counseling, and then choosing a day and time to go through the annulment process took a couple of weeks of phone calling and emailing.
In the financial part of the Agreement:
- We had property transfers.
- We had businesses to sign off.
- We had bank accounts to settle.
We had lawyers commenting on their agreement, so I had to go back and forth with the lawyers, modifying the Agreement.
Finally, at the last mediation session, they showed up with several family members on each side, and spoke in Hungarian when they didn’t want me to hear what they had to say about each other. As exciting and interesting as that sounds, it wasn’t the most pleasant signing session I ever had, but everything was transferred and all the paperwork was signed.
The husband was still angry and while he was leaving said, “You were on my wife’s side. You favored her.” I reminded him that I didn’t negotiate any of the financial terms, which they had done on their own. I did try to keep them from litigating their case, since everything was already agreed to. So I asked, “How did I favor your wife over you?” He said, “Well I just know you did. I could tell by your attitude.”
You can really empathize with some of these people. They are like tortured souls. I stayed with this couple through to the signing of the Agreement. My thanks was the husband saying as he was walking out, “I’m going to get even with you for taking my wife’s side. I’m going to leave you a negative comment on one of the internet websites that has to do with servicing.”
So under the heading of “Don’t blame me, I’m just the mediator,” as hard as you try sometimes to be a neutral, a client can still blame you for showing preference to one side over the other. All you can hope for is a few years down the road, you get a phone call from the client saying, “You know what? I’m not that angry anymore. I realize that you really did a good job and I want to thank you.” That call rarely comes, but whether the client realizes it or not, you have the satisfaction of knowing you did the best job that you could for the couple.
And sometimes, that’s as good as it gets.