Combative Divorce and Mediation: When Spouses Are Barely Speaking


One of the most common popular misconceptions about mediation is that it is a process that requires both parties to be on friendly, open terms.  This vision of mediation sees it as simply a rubber-stamp formality for what is already conceived of as an open communication between divorcing spouses.

The fact is, mediation is just as useful and effective for couples seeking a divorce who have lost the ability to communicate effectively.  The key concept in mediation is not cooperation, necessarily, but rather the formality of communication.

Conflict Is Natural

Very few divorces are pursued without conflict – the fact is, divorce is the result of a relationship that has become dysfunctional and no longer a positive experience for either party.  It’s no surprise this often comes with anger, hurt feelings, and a sense of injustice.  This can make communication difficult because both parties have stopped behaving politely or positively towards each other.

The Benefits of Rules

Mediation can be effective in these situations because a trained and experienced mediator knows how to set up the formal rules of communication that give each side a chance to speak their mind and make their case.  The clear procedure makes each side relax no matter what is said, because they know they will have a fair chance to respond and rebut.

This allows each spouse to “vent” and speak their piece, allowing them to feel validated and taken seriously, which results in a calmer and more open sense of communication.  Where unstructured attempts at negotiation often fall into the trap of argument and conflict, mediation’s structure keeps things moving towards a solution.


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