As a mediator specializing in divorce, I feel very strongly that part of my job as a mediator is to give the couple the process that fits their needs, not to just get ‘em in, get ‘em done and get ‘em out. Towards that end, I have developed a few standard questions I ask a couple when we first meet:
- Tell me why you are here and what you expect to get out of the mediation process?
- What is going on in your relationship and have you seen a marriage counselor?
- If you have, why didn’t it work?
When couples have children, I remind them that they are going to be parents to their children forever. Parenting does not stop when the children reach twenty-one years of age and that means that the parents may have to communicate with each other after divorce and maintain a civil relationship, because of events like the children’s birthdays, graduations, marriages, births and other family gatherings.
I am not an advocate for divorce. I am here to offer couples some options such as a temporary agreement called the Move Out Agreement. This gives the couple a cooling off period. Or a Settlement Agreement which sets the groundwork for a divorce down the road. This Agreement would include:
- Financial decisions such as division of assets
- Agreed upon spousal support, if any
- A parenting plan
Once the appropriate document is created, the couple can then move forward with their lives. If they choose to reconcile, the door will be open for that.
As divorce mediators, I feel we have an obligation to ask questions so they can make sure they have chosen the correct process that best meets their needs. We shouldn’t assume that as divorce mediators, it is our job to divorce every couple that meets with us.
- They may be there to get information.
- They may be there to establish a cooling off period.
- They may be there to obtain a Settlement Agreement and possibly either reconcile or make the decision to divorce later.
If there is a chance the marriage can be saved, perhaps we should encourage the couple to explore the possibility of seeing a marriage counselor.
To Divorce or Not to Divorce, may be the question, however it is not one that should be answered by the mediator. It is a question that only the couple can answer. A divorce is final. So the couple should choose wisely because there is no going back.