Family Law Mediators: A Tool to Reduce Conflict in and Out of Mediation for Your Co-Parent Clients By Jen Schimbeno and Brandyn Roark Caires, LCPC
As a family law mediator, it can be really difficult to work with a couple who are at each other’s throats throughout the mediation process. Many times they are so at odds with each other, they miss the opportunities to hear when they actually agree with each other. This is especially difficult when clients are parents and make decisions on behalf of their children. There are so many complexities involved: the marital relationship, the parent-child relationship, the parent-parent relationship, the whole family system… it’s a LOT to manage without the right tools and support in place. Families are sacred ground and should be treated as such while helping them restructure their lives.
Mediation is an art form, knowing how to best help clients while maintaining neutrality, all while letting each individual know their best interest of their family unit is being taken care of, takes a lot of care and planning. Mediators have the incredible opportunity and privilege to support each individual, but also to help positively influence them as co-parents.
By the time a couple reaches out to a mediator about their divorce or legal separation, they may be in various stages of “divorce readiness.” This can present a challenging situation as the couple’s mediator. The transition from partners/spouses to co-parenting is very difficult for most parents. Without clear, compassionate guidance, many co-parents walk down a path of challenges and distrust as “exes” instead of a path of rebuilding new trust as co-parents.
As mediators, you may be the first step towards a positive, lasting impact for co-parents. Sometimes you are the only support they will have access to through this life transition and restructuring of their family. Some families may seek family counseling before the divorce and are given tools and strategies. Some individuals can reach out for post-divorce support and are provided with resources to help navigate divorce and co-parenting. Often we do not see individuals or families able or sometimes willing to access this additional support. This allows you the opportunity to help in a proactive, positive way that keeps them moving forward instead of getting stuck in old patterns.
The work mediators do really business. This matters outside of the settlement agreement or parenting plan. This matters because parental conflict or the loss of a relationship with a parent can be traumatic for some children. Even if not traumatic, these factors can affect a child’s ability to adjust in life and negatively affect their well-being.
To change the generational impact of divorce in our society, we can start with one small step at a time. Educating customers.
Mediators have the opportunity to educate co-parents about the impact of divorce, parental conflict and the importance of children having unencumbered access to their parents. To direct or direct co-parents to resources about the importance of children being freely admitted
loving both their parents, without interference and without being placed in the middle – is an approach for mediators that reduces conflict, increases parental mental health, and lowers high costs of co-parents returning to court.
There are a few ways that Parents Team works with mediators. Here are some ways mediators use our resources and tools to help co-parents;
● Some brokers have purchased license rights to our course and have bulk login codes for their clients whenever they need them.
● Before the mediation process begins, mediators send a link to the Parenting of Two Homes co-parenting course to their co-parents and ask them to complete modules 1-3 before the first mediation.
● Mediators have access to our Co-Parenting Tool Kit and provide these tools and resources to co-parents when they see that they are ‘stuck’. For example: if co-parents cannot agree on details and finances with extracurriculars – mediators provide them with Parents’ Team’s “10-Step Processing Guide for Extracurriculars”.