April 18, 2017
by Betsy Gardner
I would never change the fact that my parents got a divorce. But I would change the way they did it.
I now know that there is a healthier route for separation, and I had the chance to see this during my experience as a participant during Divorce Mediation Training at MWI. Divorcing parents have another choice, one that can mitigate the trauma and the debt of a litigious divorce. The experience of my parents’ final separation was an extreme contrast to the experience of couples who chose mediation, and one of the crucial differences is how MWI’s divorce mediation process focuses on the whole family as part of the divorce process.
An Empowered Process
The true benefit of mediation is that couples are able to create the terms of their own divorce or separation agreement amicably. Although the marriage is ending, mediation provides a space to work through details of the divorce in a manner that encourages collaboration, to provide the best outcome for the family. Rather than give up the power to make decisions about their future, couples go through the mediation process empowered to come up with solutions themselves. The mediator is driven by the process, not a personal interest in the issues, and therefore parties can work out disagreements in a less stressful environment.
Attention on the Children
Additionally, children and families experience increased anxiety and anger during a divorce or separation. Mediation encourages communication and collaboration, which is important because studies show that children of all ages are more resilient if their parents are “communicatively skilled”. Additionally MWI also offers a highly-recommended version of the court-mandated Parent Education Program that focuses on reducing conflict within families. I can attest to the fact that this is not a primary consideration in a litigious divorce, and if a separating couple can choose mediation to spare their family any additional trauma I cannot encourage this enough. The amicability of the mediated divorce is forward-thinking, especially for couples with children; co-parenting plans can be individually crafted in the mediation process. How does high school graduation look? What will interactions be at our children’s weddings?
The Financial Benefits
Mediation also reduces the financial toll on the parties. Less money for court and legal fees means more money is kept in the family and there is less financial stress. Studies have shown that “financial stress has direct and indirect effects on interparental conflict” and that parental stress and conflict are associated with problem behavior in children and adolescents. Unfortunately, litigating a divorce is not cost-saving; parents who choose mediation are prioritizing family financial security. Trust me, choosing to direct money to the family instead of to legal fees will be appreciated by children, who are already struggling with insecurities and change.
Participate in a Training
As a mediator and a child of divorce, I highly encourage others to participate in mediation training. It is an opportunity to further your skills while actively helping families avoid legal battles. The 24 hour advanced divorce mediation training includes role-plays, presentations, and demonstrations; there is a comprehensive review of asset division, Massachusetts divorce procedures, and alimony/child support. If you are a mediator interested in developing another aspect of your practice or furthering your experience, I recommend MWI’s divorce mediation training. Divorce is a reality for many couples, so I can only hope that more mediators and separating parents understand the benefits of mediation and choose this option. Questions may be directed to Josh Hoch, MWI, 617-895-4028.
About the Author
Betsy Gardner is an educator, facilitator, and mediator specializing in conflict resolution and women’s economic development. She has worked as an adjunct professor for Northeastern University and facilitated training with Major League Baseball, the MIT Sloan School of Management, the New England Patriots, and the MA Attorney General’s Office. She currently works as a Program Assistant as part of an internship at MWI. For more information about internships at MWI click here.