Red Flag or Gold Star?

Most couples that come to see me have chosen divorce mediation because they would like to arrive at a fair settlement with as little acrimony and expense as possible. These couples have a sense of practicality and confidence in their ability to work things out and move on. Sometimes, unfortunately, it doesn’t play out that way.

It is not my intention to discourage couples from selecting mediation when faced with divorce—that would be bad for business. My goal in this post is to point out that sometimes couples would like to reap the benefits of mediation but their actions or behaviors don’t meet some (or all) of the elements needed to succeed.

In those cases, there are usually red flags that indicate a potential roadblock to a successful completion of the mediation process. In my practice, I point out those red flags as soon as possible in order to provide opportunity for a course correction. Most often, clients fall somewhere between red flag and gold star behavior in mediation and are not necessarily consistent across the varying issues.

                  RED FLAG                                              GOLD STAR

Information Holding back financial details and documents Preparing budgets and sharing needed financial statements, tax returns, W-2s etc.
Participation Lack of attention or interest, denying emotions Staying focused and engaged, asking questions, speaking up about needs and wants, acknowledging emotions
Advice Putting stock in non-professional advice, comparing to other people’s settlements Seeking professional input where necessary— appraisals, valuations, therapy, career counseling etc.
Respect Imbalance of participation Speaking and listening, building on consensus and generating multiple options together
Consideration Trying to get as much as you can of assets and income without concern or consideration for other Working toward a fair settlement that considers important factors attributable to both parties
Making Decisions Racing to decision making without exploring options Working together to define issues, learn about the law, make decisions that work for the whole family
Abiding by Agreements Spending or appropriating funds out of the usual course, changing parenting duties without prior agreement Making explicit temporary arrangements to address transitions or maintaining status quo

Agreements reached in mediation must be based on facts and arrived at with the full understanding and participation of the parties. It’s an opportunity for people to control the specific terms and details of their agreements. The point of the process is self-determination. If there is resistance to sharing information or fully participating in the discussions, the result is more likely to be unsatisfactory or called into question. In my practice, I set a high bar and help my clients get across the finish line as best they can but ultimately, their success is in their hands.

If you would like to learn more about divorce mediation, please contact me for a no fee consultation.

Image credit: Steve Snodgrass, used with Creative Commons license.

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