I recently read with great interest an article posted by the Toronto Mediator Laura Tarcea on Linked In. In this post she highlights a very large body of research that unequivocally links divorce with long-term decreases in life satisfaction, increased risk for various physical and mental illnesses and, startlingly, early death.
Ms Tarcea makes the very valid point that with 50% of first marriages ending in divorce and 70% of I assume, family litigants, representing themselves, clear efforts should be focused on developing a dispute resolution model that in her very apt words is “both preventative and protective in order to secure long-term family and community health”. Some would say that the findings that come from all this research authoritatively confirm what our gut instincts were already telling us and of which governments the world over should really start taking note.
When “selling” the benefits of mediation, family and civil mediators often highlight the economic benefits and emphasise the time and confidentiality of the process. Mention is always made of mediation being conducted in a safe open environment and being (relatively) stress-free.
However for most people, even with mediation divorce will never be easy. Despite them being advised by a mediator or lawyers about the fault-free nature of the process and the importance of moving forward, many will harbour a degree of resentment. Even in the most “straightforward” family cases there will be a lot of rancour and recrimination. And even the most able and empathetic of family professionals will readily acknowledge that divorce and relationship breakups come at a very high emotional cost and that those involved, including children, can take years to recover.
Mediation certainly is timely and cost effective, and the #AlbertSquareMediation family team which is headed up by Austin Chessell provides an excellent service that gets results. However, is it always the right option?
Couples who may have been estranged for some time and who may not have agreed about anything suddenly find themselves being asked to consider mediation, to be in close proximity, and to start talking about the very difficult things that may have caused them to break up in the first place. They could be offered five or six 90 minute sessions which they may find to be intimidating, stressful and ultimately as “unhealthy” as litigation. Some parties might feel pressured and be unwilling to agree to things not because they are being divisive but because they are simply not ready to re-engage with one another, possibly after a very acrimonious split.
In the same way that an accident victim will, with help from a physiotherapist, become fully mobile again, a divided couple may need some third party to re- start the process of communication – quite apart from the whole business of property division, living arrangements and child contact; decisions that will affect the rest of their lives.
What has this got to do with Ms Tarcea’s astute observations? She does not refer to one particular form of dispute resolution but to the need for a model that is “both preventative and protective.” With this maxim in mind and given its commitment to the principles of cost-effectiveness and flexibility, #AlbertSquareMediation offers not only family mediation but also a therapy service provided by Elizabeth Richards and Soila Sindiyo and a child parenting service by Soila. These are very much aimed at helping couples and their children who may not have the wherewithal to engage with one another, even in mediation, and who at the same time will not be well served by costly, divisive court proceedings.
It is not uncommon for mediation to be offered or suggested to couples that are literally so far apart that they have completely lost the will or the ability to communicate with one another. In such cases it could be unwise or unreasonable to expect such a couple to suddenly start engaging and deal with harsh or complex practicalities such as division of finances or child related issues. The attendant levels of stress and strain may well affect the health of those concerned, something that tends to underline the correctness of the research identified above. Even in shuttle mediations where the parties sit in separate rooms and may not meet at all, the stress of being in close proximity to one another can be as marked as the stress of court proceedings.
#AlbertSquareMediation’s highly skilled therapists can help couples to establish the meaningful contact that will help them to move forward and ultimately resolve their differences without too much difficulty. Couples can be seen separately or together and in the same way that a physiotherapist helps rehabilitate a severely injured accident victim, a few sessions with either Soila or Elizabeth can help to unblock fractured communication channels. The cost of such sessions, even if arranged at short notice will be modest, and given the potential long-term financial benefit of restarting the communication process, will be very cost effective.
In some instances such sessions may be successful to the point that couples can then sit down together to discuss matters which in turn means that they will need to spend less time with their lawyers and possibly, less time with a mediator. Equally, there may be couples who are quite capable of sitting down together and resolving things without a mediator and who just need a little bit of therapeutic help to start things for them; the sort of early dispute resolution that is one of #AlbertSquareMediation’s core services and unique selling points.
Surely, better an informal, timely and satisfactory outcome for those affected by relationship breakdown than becoming one of the statistics referred to above?
Principal Director of ASM PLUS, civil/commercial, workplace, employment, family and educational mediator and trainer with a judicial/legal background. He has knowledge and expertise in dispute resolution in a wide range of areas and disciplines and mediates online.