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Mediation Questions to Consider

Mediation Questions to Consider
January 6, 2021 Rachel Alexander, Esq.
Portrait of a pensive African American woman wearing a green shirt and standing near a gray wall with question marks falling around her.

{7 minutes to read} Clients often ask what can they do to prepare for mediation. This article concerns itself with questions mediation candidates might use to prepare for mediation — not so much regarding collecting this receipt or that statement, but in a more comprehensive and holistic way — more the way a novice skier might stretch, train and develop some new muscle strength and flexibility before hitting the slopes. These questions might help frame, and reframe, the way you think about and approach a divorce, separation, pre- or post-nuptial, and importantly, a mediation: with intention and with the end in mind.

The Process and the Outcome (keeping the end in mind)

  • What would a successful mediation process look like?
  • How do you want to feel about yourself during the process? And afterwards? What do you need to achieve that?
  • Is there anything keeping you up at night concerning this situation? What is that? (From mentor Anju Jessani, MBA)
  • What do each of you need in order to move forward?
  • What is in the way of moving forward?
  • If you had to choose only one thing that would get resolved to your absolute satisfaction, what would it be? And what would be needed to gain even the slightest room for possibility around this issue?
  • What is an equitable outcome given your particular circumstances?
  • What will provide each of you a sense of financial security? What other kinds of security are important to you?

Build Perspective: Get to higher ground for a better view

  • What will things look like in your life two years from now; five years from now? How would you like things to be, so they support and reflect you at your best (e.g. happy, content, inspired, relaxed, proud)? For example, if in five years, you really want to be living in Manhattan or abroad, holding onto the marital home might be cast in a different light. Even considering a five- or ten-year plan can create some much needed emotional distance from the current crisis, and enable you to access more effectiveness in the present.
  • What might be resolved that could add to your sense of stability and optimism about the future?
  • What is your understanding of what your spouse needs in order to feel hopeful about the future?
  • What do both of you need to get through this process now? And in the early weeks and months following the divorce?

Priorities

  • What is critical to let the mediator know immediately?
  • What needs to be said early on, so that you have time with the mediator to properly address it?
  • What would be reassuring to you to have in place as soon as possible?

Now issues

  • Is anything time sensitive and urgent? For example, a car lease is about to expire, which means one of you will soon have no means of transportation, and there is no agreement yet between you. This can seem quite banal but needs addressing right away to avert more serious issues.
  • What are some immediate concerns?  For example: We are living in the house together and are struggling with how to sustain an environment that is tenable for us, let alone the kids.
  • How can we make our intermediate living situation liveable?
  • How do we tell the children?
  • What do we say?

How do you make decisions? What kind of problem solver are you?

Having a good sense of how you are most comfortable working with conflict, solving problems, and making decisions will help you guide your mediator — so she can best meet you where you are. It’s entirely appropriate to be candid about what works for you personally; the mediation is for your benefit and the mediator’s aim is to help you.

  • What things do you need more information about in order to make decisions?
  • What sorts of information tend to organize and support your personal decision-making process?  For example, some people find it helpful to know what is typically done in comparable circumstances, as well as some creative solutions others have discovered.
  • Are there some areas where you need to be informed of your rights, and the law? Spousal support/alimony is an area where strong feelings and fragmented information can obstruct resolution. Often, creating a basic foundation in law and fact can be a helpful launching pad for more generative discussions. Your mediator can provide some context, background and education, as well as answer your specific questions.
  • In order to feel informed and comfortable enough to make a decision, where do you really need to know more?
  • What is important emotionally and what is important practically? Can you identify places where it is difficult to distinguish between the two?
  • Which issues are “loaded” — ie, difficult to speak about without getting triggered, without repeating the same argument and gaining no ground?

The Children

  • What do the kids need now in order to feel safe, in order to be reassured?
  • What might your spouse need in order to have his parenting supported by you; to be the best parent she can be?
  • What do you want to overhear your children saying two years from now when asked about the divorce? When asked about your behavior during it?
  • What is the optimal future co-parenting relationship like between you and your spouse? What current strengths can you rely on? What is working?
  • What needs to happen now in order to support your vision of the future?

If you know where you want to be, your mediator can be your sherpa. She can help you find a friendlier route, and even carry some of the heavier baggage as you go. You may find that what first appeared an unsurpassable thicket, widens into a more level and even path forward.

2 Comments

  1. Michael W. Boyle 6 months ago

    Mediation regarding children can be quite stressful. Unfortunately some parents “weaponize” the children in order to subordinate or leverage the other parent. Without exception I have always tried to persuade parents that this is not only harmful to their soon to be ex, but impacts the children for the rest of their lives. In many cases the parent who uses the children to threaten or intimidate the other parent find themselves estranged from their children when they are old enough to realize what their mother/father did during the divorce process.

    • Author
      Rachel Alexander 6 months ago

      Michael, I agree wholeheartedly. In these instances, the trauma parents can cause their children can ricochet causing unimagined consequences. Thank you for making the point so well.

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