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When Mediators Turn a Blind Eye to Bullying

Bullying isn’t allowed in or around school anymore. Yet it is common practice in the legal profession. What is surprising to me is that mediators seem to turn a blind eye to it. They accept it as a part of the process. As if bullies can be stopped by simply ignoring their ‘victims.’ My ex husband brought his attorney to mediation yesterday. The stated purpose for her presence was so that she could advise her client on any legal matters. But the real purpose was so that he could play Good Cop, and his lawyer could be Bad Cop. She was there to say, “If you do not agree to give my client exactly what he is asking for, then I am prepared to go to court to file a motion to get what we want.”

The two expert mediators in the room didn’t challenge this process. One of them said, “Usually, lawyers like to be kept in the loop.”

I was there alone. I was there to achieve a better dialogue, which is what I thought was the purpose of mediation. Yet when the lawyer left the room she said she would hold off for a few sessions of this talk “but she was ready to proceed at any time.”

When this tactic is used over and over as a way to instill anxiety in one parent, it is no different than the school yard bully saying, “Fork over your lunch money or I’ll get you.” And, even though I know “it’s a tactic–it’s what lawyers do” it still causes anxiety.

For the past five years since the divorce I have heard these phrases over and over– “We’re going to file a motion. When this goes to court the judge will flip a coin to decide the fate of your children. And you’ll look like a fool unless you hire another lawyer.”

In one month alone, my ex-husband filed five or six Motions to the Court. During that month I had no time to work on anything else except trying to defend myself. And the children’s world was filled with intense anxiety.

How is this process of legal bullying helpful to anyone? What does it teach children except that the “bully-proofing pledge” they take at school is a joke. Adults are paid to be bullies and the system, which oversees post-divorce families, says it’s perfectly acceptable to participate in constant bullying no matter how harmful it is. How is it that the family court system is set up on this premise? Our children deserve something different.


Barb Hastings

Barb Hastings, Denver, CO, mother of two, with a background in counseling. MORE >

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