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 at such odds with each other, they miss the opportunities to hear when they are actually agreeing with one another. This is especially difficult when clients are parents and making decisions on behalf of their kids. There are so many complexities involved: the spousal 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 need to be treated as such while helping them navigate restructuring their lives.
Mediation is an artform, to know how to best help clients while maintaining neutrality, all while letting each individual know their best interest of their family unit is cared for, takes a lot of care and planning. Mediators have the incredible opportunity and privilege of supporting each individual, but also helping to positively impact them as co-parents.
By the time a couple reaches out to a mediator about their divorce or legal separation they may be in different phases of “divorce readiness.” This can pose a challenging situation as the couple’s mediator. The transition from partners/spouses to co parents is very difficult for most parents. Without clear, compassionate guidance many co-parents head down a path of challenges and distrust as “ex’s” instead of a path of rebuilding new trust as co-parents.
As mediators, you might be the first step to a positive, lasting impact for co parents. Sometimes, you are the only support they will access through this life transition and restructuring of their family. Some families may seek out family counseling prior to the divorce and were given tools and strategies. Some individuals may reach out for support post-divorce and be provided resources to help navigate divorce and co parenting. Most often, we don’t see individuals or families able or sometimes willing to access these additional supports. This leaves you with the opportunity to help in a proactive, positive way which keeps them moving forward instead of stuck in old patterns.
The work mediators do really matters. It matters beyond the settlement agreement or parenting plan. It matters because parental conflict or the loss of a relationship with a parent can be traumatic for some children. Even if it’s not traumatic, these factors can impact a child’s ability to adjust in life and negatively impact their well being.
In order to change the generational impacts of divorce in our society, we can start with one small step at a time. Educating clients.
Mediators have the opportunity to educate co-parents on the impacts of divorce, parental conflict and the importance of children having unburdened access to their parents. Directing or guiding co-parents towards resources about the importance of children being allowed to freely
love both of their parents, without interference and without being put in the middle – is an approach for mediators which reduces conflict, increases parental mental health, and decreases high costs of co-parents returning to court.
There are a few ways Parent Team is working alongside mediators. Here are a few ways mediators are using our resources and tools to help co-parents;
● Some mediators have purchased licensing rights to our course and have bulk login codes for their clients whenever they need them.
● Prior to the mediation process starting, mediators send a link to the Parenting from Two Homes co parenting course to their co–parents and ask them to complete modules 1-3 prior to the first mediation.
● Mediators have access to our Co-parenting Tool Kit and provide these tools and resources to co-parents when they see they are ‘stuck”. For example: if co-parents are not able to agree on details and finances with extracirricullrs – mediators provide them Parent Team’s “10 Step Processing Guide for Extracurriculars”.
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