Picking Sides

Picking Sides

When people get divorced, there are so many things that you can’t just split in half. Friends and family who have created strong bonds with your ex now feel pressure to pick sides whether or not you have asked them to do so. This leads to even more factors influencing how all parties involved will cope with the trauma of the divorce. And even though it often comes out of a place of genuine love and concern, people sometimes will take the reigns and try to control your divorce and in order to stay healthy, be vigilante against this.

I was recently contacted to potentially mediate a litigated divorce matter prior to trial, which is rapidly approaching. My name had been included on a list from the attorneys, along with two other mediators.

Interestingly enough, the person who contacted me was the wife’s mother, who had left me a voicemail message. She left me her phone number, as well as that of her daughter. I decided that since it was her daughter’s divorce, I would call the daughter.

As it turned out, it made no difference because her mother answered the phone and grilled me. Among other things, she told me that her daughter needed to be protected and that she therefore needed to attend the mediation.

It didn’t seem to matter that her daughter was represented by well-qualified counsel, who could attend the mediation. She also proceeded to tell me things that really shouldn’t have been said at that point in time, especially since a mediator is supposed to be impartial. One of the things that I probably didn’t need to hear at that stage was that the only reason that the case hasn’t settled is because the husband is being difficult merely for the sake of being difficult.

In any event, I told her that as long as the parties and their counsel agreed to her presence at the mediation, it was fine with me. I then asked her whether or not she had a good relationship with her son-in-law. She told me that they didn’t care for each other at all, to say the least. I then asked her what made her think that her son-in-law would agree to her presence at the mediation, considering that she is not a party in the divorce and since she and her son-in-law dislike each other to such a degree. She continued telling me how much her presence was necessary for her daughter’s protection.

I then explained that people frequently confuse “conflict resolution or management” with “dispute resolution.” Conflicts are emotional and disputes are fact-based. Legal disputes, divorces included, are typically resolved through litigation or litigated negotiation, which are adversarial processes and thereby exacerbate the conflict in order to resolve the dispute. Assuming that she is correct as to reason the case hasn’t yet settled, what is needed is “conflict intervention,” which I do in the course of my mediation work.

I then asked her how she thought that her attendance at the mediation would impact the level of conflict in the case. She admitted that the level of conflict would likely increase significantly if she were to attend the mediation. Then, out of nowhere, the wife suddenly entered the conversation. You see, she was apparently listening in on the conversation the whole time and allowing her mother run the show.

I then mentioned that the higher the conflict, the longer it typically takes to resolve disputes. I again reiterated that if everyone else was fine with her attending the mediation, I could care less and was merely pointing out things they may want to consider.

In case you couldn’t figure it out, I never again heard from anyone about the possibility of my mediating the case. After all, people don’t like it when you tell them things they don’t want to hear.

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Polly Tatum is a highly qualified and dedicated Worcester Family Law & Estate Planning Attorney who can help you in your time of need. Call now for a strategy session.


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