Divorce mediation is a process where a neutral third party, the mediator, helps divorcing couples reach agreements on various aspects of their separation, such as asset division, child custody, and support arrangements. We often discuss the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of the clients in a divorce mediation – but what you hear less about are do’s and don’ts for the mediator leading the process.
This blog will cover what we believe are the ‘do’s and don’ts’ for divorce mediators, from an experienced mediator’s viewpoint. As a professional, it’s crucial to adhere to certain standards of behavior to ensure the process is effective, fair, and constructive.
Do’s for Divorce Mediators
Beyond legal advice, there are several things a skilled divorce mediator can do to establish a trusting and beneficial environment for their clients.
Encourage Open Communication:
Facilitate an environment where both parties feel comfortable expressing their concerns and needs. It’s essential that each party feels heard and understood and are heard and understood.
There are many ways to ensure a party feels you’re listening. Some may be a natural ability of the mediator – like being a good listener. But if that is not the case, there are ways to increase your effectiveness as a good listener. Something as simple as eye contact and nodding your head. Not always taking notes, but taking a moment to BE in the moment is crucial as well.
As a mediator, it’s crucial to maintain neutrality and not take sides. Your role is to facilitate discussion and help find a middle ground, not to judge or impose solutions.
Educate on the Process:
Make sure both parties understand the mediation process, including its goals, the legal implications of decisions, and the importance of honesty and transparency.
Encourage the couple to focus on solving problems rather than placing blame. This involves looking at the issues objectively and exploring various options for resolution.
Prepare for Emotional Challenges:
Divorce is emotionally challenging. Be prepared to handle strong emotions and guide the parties towards constructive dialogue.
Assure both parties that what is discussed in mediation remains confidential, fostering a safe space for honest discussion.
Encourage Legal Advice:
While mediators don’t provide legal advice, it’s important to encourage both parties to seek independent legal counsel to understand their rights and obligations.
Don’ts for Divorce Mediators
Given the tips above, there are also some things that, ideally, should not happen during a divorce mediation session.
Don’t Take Sides:
Avoid showing favoritism or bias towards either party. This undermines the mediation process and can lead to distrust.
Don’t Offer Legal Advice:
As a mediator, you should not provide legal advice. Instead, guide parties to seek advice from their own attorneys.
Don’t Force Agreements:
It’s important not to pressure parties into agreements. All decisions should be made voluntarily and without coercion.
Don’t Overlook Power Imbalances:
Be aware of any power imbalances between the parties, and work to ensure that both parties can equally participate and voice their opinions.
Don’t Ignore Emotional Dynamics:
Be attentive to the emotional aspects of the divorce and recognize when emotions might be hindering productive discussion.
Don’t Permit Abusive Behavior:
Ensure that the mediation environment is respectful. Do not tolerate any form of abusive or disrespectful behavior.
Don’t Rush the Process:
Understand that reaching agreements in divorce mediation can take time. Avoid rushing the process, as this can lead to unresolved issues or unfair agreements.
Following these do’s and don’ts helps mediators facilitate a more effective and empathetic divorce mediation process, ultimately aiding couples to arrive at amicable solutions during a challenging time.
Our firm works with diverse family and divorce mediation clients throughout California, and can also consult with professionals who deal with divorce matters. Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center for a free and confidential consultation.