Recently, someone I know thanked me for doing the work I do and for “saving relationships”. I often speak to people who are confused with what I do, and inevitably they ask me, “so do you help couples stay together” and I always have to explain that I’m not a marriage counselor.
This time I responded with, “unfortunately I don’t, I help couples separate and divorce in a way that reduces conflict and most importantly looks after the best interest of the children and the family as a whole”. This time the response I received stopped me in my tracks, she said “yes, I know what you do and you do help save so many relationships, not only the couple in helping them to avoid conflict and ugliness but also for the future of their children.”
People who know me know that I’m very passionate about what I do. And over the years, I’ve written extensively about the many reasons why I believe divorce mediation is one of the best ways for couples to dissolve their marriage. The mediation process can be completed for a fraction of the cost of litigation, and it can usually be done in a much shorter period of time. The process is entirely confidential, offers greater flexibility and control over the final divorce settlement, and it employs a cooperative rather than combative approach, which is far less stressful for divorcing couples.
As great as all of these benefits are, however, they pale in comparison to the long-term benefits of the process. One of the most overlooked aspects of divorce mediation is the positive affect it has on the long-term relationship between the spouses, and the impact this has on the children (if the couple has children).
We all know that divorce is never pretty. When a couple reaches the point in which they have decided that the marriage cannot be saved, there are naturally going to be conflicts and disputes that brought them to this point. But just because you are ending your marriage will no longer be life-long partners, this does not mean you and your spouse cannot maintain an amicable relationship.
Unfortunately, the divorce process itself often makes the relationship between the spouses worse. When you split up, there are issues that need to be settled, such as who keeps the house, how the rest of the assets are divided, and who gets custody of the kids. Long, drawn out court battles over these issues is not only expensive financially, but it can also be very costly with regards to the damage it does to relationships.
For example, when children are caught in the middle of a custody battle, they are in a no-win situation. They love both of their parents, and the last thing they ever want to do is pick sides between them. But sometimes, they feel like they have to.
Some parents do not realize the long-term effects conflicts like these can have on their children, and the entire family. I’ve known some children of divorce who don’t speak to their siblings because they hold different views of each parent and side with them. This trickles down for generations, and sadly, many people go to their graves without ever repairing relationships that were broken during their childhood.
Divorce mediation provides a way to help prevent this type of situation from happening. During mediation, couples are encouraged to find common ground on the issues that need to be resolved, develop peaceable and workable resolutions (for these issues), and part ways amicably. And when children see that their parents are able to resolve their divorce and still maintain a good relationship, it makes it much easier to accept what happened and adjust to their new reality.
This is an intangible benefit of mediation that you cannot put a price on, and it is the biggest reason I do what I do.