Friday, 26 January 2018

Does Mediation Help You Have a Kinder Divorce?

So I have heard so many failed mediation stories and I wanted to share my own experience which was positive. I want to tell you that mediation can work, it takes effort, patience and kindness, but it can work.  And let's face it we need all the help we can get when stepping onto the road of divorce...

So I was married for almost 18 years and have two children. I co-ran a business with my Ex who lived overseas for most of our married life together.  Sadly due to the amount of time spent apart we both agreed to a divorce and these are my thoughts on mediation.

WHY MEDIATION?

What made us both decide to proceed down the mediation route was the love for our children and their welfare. Talking to our children about our impending separation and divorce, naturally hit all of us really hard. My Ex and I each saw the fear, pain and confusion in our very much loved children's eyes and in order to alleviate the damage to our children, we knew we had to be kind through all of this. Both of us understood that attending mediation was potentially a positive way forward to help us achieve this.

Mediation seemed to be the most compassionate yet logical way to proceed along this potentially fraught path of pain, grief and guilt.  We had been recommended mediation by other couples who had been through the process with an amicable outcome.  Knowing this gave us confidence in mediation. They were real couples who were still friends and giving their changed family unit the continued and gentle respect it deserved.

Our children just wanted to know that everything was going to be okay. We realised early on that children's radars are bang on and that when we functioned as a positive divorcing unit, rather than two warring parties their stress levels reduced.

I chose my solicitor who supported the process of mediation. It made sense and I had no wish to continue a marital battle now that a decision to divorce had been made.

Our mediators understand the legalities, but without any game plan.  This assured me enormously and gave me a platform of trust and hope for the sessions. Entering into mediation kind of gave me permission to leave my ego at the door of the room. This is a tough call but I didn't want to fight anymore.  I knew instinctively that by gently taking my ego out of the situation, it would help me/us to move forward one step at a time, beginning to build, albeit, a fragile web of trust. I just needed to be brave, trust and feel empowered to do it.

Our mediators were kind, professional and were great at alleviating any angst whilst working through many of the trickier points. Our situation was so complicated financially that we were assigned two mediators - I liked this and I really believed without doubt they were working for all our benefit. 

They were very complimentary about our attitude which was helpful, supportive and affirmed to us that we had chosen the right path. Both my Ex and I operate very differently in life and yet we were both confident, trusting and relieved about the process we had chosen, which helped us, rather than hindered us during this life changing time..

Preparing for mediation involved collecting together paperwork regarding mortgages, bank statements, pension documents etc.  We were also asked for our initial thoughts on where we were going to live, how we would manage co-parenting and financial support that was most beneficial for our children and for us both. Having a sense of direction was important for me, I needed to have a focus for my attention, it helped me feel stronger and more in control.  It also gave me the confidence to begin rebuilding a life for me and our children.

We had 7 mediation sessions. This was not due to any difficulty in communicating and working as a divorcing couple, but because of the constant changing scary financial situation that we had to work through and the fact that my Ex had been living overseas.

MEDIATION FEAR MONKEYS

They were always going to visit ....
  • Would I like and trust our mediators? During separation and divorce you are fearful, wary and vulnerable.  There are many people giving you helpful advice, trusting your instincts and having confidence in your mediators is important. 
  • How do I find a qualified mediator? Go on to the Resolution - First For Family Law website where you can find lawyers and mediators who are all committed to the process. Ask for positive recommendations - meet your mediators first, get a feel for them as you would other professionals you would trust and work with.
  • How scary is it in the mediation room?  Yup.... Why scary? This is new, you may not have been through mediation before, neither of you know what to expect or how you are going to react to each other. Especially if either or both of you are hurting and are angry.  Accept that it is going to be challenging and that this is normal in new situations, coupled with the ragged divorce brain, be prepared for heightened sensitivity and be mindful of the words you use.
  • Can mediation work for you? There was a fleeting moment when my Ex and I Iooked at each other across the table and knew that each of us had decided to be brave and take that leap of faith and trust in mediation. I felt it was important to have the intention that mediation would work. Divorce throws you into a flat spin and focusing on one thing and trusting it can be difficult.  See mediation happening and working - put it out there and did I mention trust - yes trust.
  • Will it be emotional?  Yes, this is a life roller-coaster you are on.  Will there be tears? Tissues on the table oh and tea - YES! Mediators really want this to work for you and for your children, they are caring and human. Be aware on the day how you are feeling, if you haven't slept for the last couple of nights, you may feel on edge, be more likely to react negatively. This is normal, however if you are not feeling up to going into mediation, be kind to yourselves and rearrange the session. Save yourself the distress, money and time.  Making each session work for you is learning to understand the value of patience, understanding and kindness for you both.
  • Is this the best process for you? Yes, if you have trust in the process and each other. Whether you sign up for the mediation process or court process the decision is up to you. Whichever route you decide upon, be focused, committed and kind... 
  • How will we feel after a session?  My Ex and I were so relieved that it was balanced, calm and simplistic.  We thanked each other after every session for being kind, respectful and gentle. This was a practice we continued after every session. It reaffirmed our commitment to co-parenting our children and to both our futures.
  • Mediation payment?  We found that mediation sessions were far less expensive than meeting with our solicitors and this was important to us.  Knowing that our finances would not be so depleted was a comfort, especially during a time when finances are so very often an important part of the present and the future.
Mediation for me was positive, empowering and helped me to put in place a co-parenting relationship that, to this day is healthy, supportive and good for the whole family's well being. Self-care for yourself during your divorce is paramount, exploring avenues that reduce the pain and suffering for the whole family is scary but so worthwhile. 

I urge you to try mediation if your intention is to have a more mindful and kinder divorce.

Natasha x


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