Often when parties call our office to inquire about the mediation process, they raise concerns about parenting, budgets, cash flow, careers and whether they can actually stay out of court. Fundamentally these questions reflect a power imbalance between the parties, across many aspects of their married lives. For example, one parent may have been the primary care giver, thus leaving the other fearful of being marginalized going forward — whereas previously they operated as a team. Similarly, one party may have earned far more than the other while also managing investments — and the other relied on the financial expertise. Indeed, a well functioning partnership typically entails the distribution of roles and tasks according to strengths and interests. Divorce therefore is a time of vast reevaluation and shifting responsibilities, not to mention the work of learning what one’s partner once took care of. Some of these shifts entail elevating one party to take on more tasks in an area previously delegated to the other, and conversely, for the “expert” to let go — even a bit. In mediation, we reflect the dynamic and discuss all together each one’s roles and goals for their respective futures. It is the job of the mediators to help the parties identify where these shifts might be necessary or desired, in order to create more of a balance of power going forward. This is essential in the mediation room and also for them to emerge from the divorce as independent individuals with areas of deep cooperation. In order to achieve this balance, parties create a path forward which may entail interim agreements to “try on” a schedule or budget, for example. Additionally, an outside expert, such as a financial professional or a child development specialist, may help identify creative and supportive steps, as well as providing wisdom — such is the opportunity from working with a team supporting parties as they work their way toward living apart.
**This is the first of our “Ask the Mediator” series. Please feel free to send in your questions!