A process using a neutral third-party to facilitate negotiations and conversation for people in disagreement to reach a mutually satisfactory solution.
Satisfaction· Empowerment· Self-determined resolutions·
Agreements that work· Private
Tony slammed the car door a little harder than he meant to. He was anxious. After his lunch with Rebecca, he had called his dad to talk about what to do next. His dad knew a good lawyer in the area but Tony had been delaying calling the lawyer. He felt like Rebecca and he could probably figure things out on their own. Yesterday had got a text from Rebecca about mediation. It sounded like a reasonable option so he here he was. Rushing into the office in spite of himself. He wasn’t in a hurry to be divorced. Just in a hurry to be done.
Tony sat in a low chair across from the mediator. When the mediator asked Tony where he would like to start he realized he had been clenching his fists. He didn’t know where to start. He just knew it had to be done. “Rebecca told me to call so I booked an appointment. I’m guessing you’ve already met with her, so what things did she tell you? Or is that something you can’t tell me?” Tony started to panic. He hadn’t even thought about how to prepare for this meeting. What even was this process?
“Yes, I met with Rebecca,” the mediator said smiling. “In mediation, my individual meetings with each of you are confidential. You can feel comfortable talking to me knowing that nothing you say will be shared with Rebecca unless you would like it shared. Also, mediation is confidential in the bigger picture. Everything we talk about in mediation, in individual meetings or in joint meetings, is on what’s called a ‘without prejudice basses’ which means if you which to the court process nothing discussed in mediation can be used as evidence.”
“So, what happens at the end?” Tony asked. “Is the divorce still finished?”
“There are two pieces in a divorce,” the mediator said. “The agreement is one piece and the finalized divorce, like the actual divorce documents, is another piece. The agreement is what we focus on in mediation. The divorce can be finalized one year after your separation.”
A year sounded good to Tony. He wanted to know there was a timeframe but also didn’t want to rush.
“What’s next? What do I need for our first appointment?”
“Just yourself. We can worry about documents later in the process.” The mediator said standing up as the meeting ended.
Rebecca sat in her car for a long time. Her fingers gripping the steering wheel and her eye forward, not focusing on anything. She dreaded opening her car door and then the door to the mediator’s office and then every door after that. She felt as though this moment was still limbo. As long as she could feel the leather of the wheel under her fingertips nothing had to be real. Rebecca couldn’t pinpoint what terrified her. She imagined the mediator stern and pushy. She still wasn’t even sure what she wanted let alone her legal rights, how could she possibly answer any of the mediator's questions? Rebecca checked her phone. Maybe Tony had tried calling, maybe the mediator had canceled. But it was blank: no unread messages. Just the time blaring at her through the screen. Peeling her hands off the wheel, she opened the car door to head inside.
“Where should we start?” Rebecca wasn’t sure how to answer the question. The mediator smiled gently from across the table. Rebecca was surprised at how calm and welcoming the mediator seemed. She shifted slightly in her chair. “Um well, I don’t really know. I guess I need to know what I all have to do. Legally.” Rebecca hadn’t met with a lawyer, she didn’t feel that was necessary.
“Well as a mediator, I can’t give you any legal advice. I can provide some information about the legal framework if you’d like but the point of mediation is for you and Tony to come to decisions yourselves. To decide what will be best for your family.” The mediator spoke slowly like they wanted to make sure Rebecca understood.
Rebecca wanted to choose her next words carefully. “How will we decide? Who tells us what to do?”
“We will spend some time talking about what is important to both of you. Then, we’ll talk about the different options that may or may not work and after that, you and Tony will hopefully come up with a plan to go forward. In mediation, no one tells you what to do and no one makes anyone do anything. Mediation is entirely voluntary. And it is up to the parties in a mediation to decide what to do.” Rebecca was starting to feel more in control. She hoped Tony would be open to mediating, though she thought he might be resistant to the idea.