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Is Mediation Right for You?

By Dr. Lynne C. Halem

  • My husband is self-employed.
  • My wife inherited money and property last year.
  • My husband is very secretive.
  • My wife keeps threatening to get even for the affair I had last year.
  • The well being of our children is our primary concern.
Individuals considering mediation frequently want to know whether or not they are appropriate mediation candidates. Unfortunately, too many just dismiss mediation outright, self-branding themselves as inappropriate candidates without any consideration of the accuracy of their assessment. Then, too, there are the many who haven't the vaguest idea that mediation may well be a valuable option for them.

Back to the question: How do you determine if you and your spouse would be able to mediate?

Some couples are obvious candidates:
  • Those who are concerned about the long-term welfare of their children and of their continued ability to co-parent cooperatively
  • Those who are able to consider the implications and ramifications of different options on both parties
  • Then, too, there is the rather large grouping who believe that their money is better spent on the family than dissipated by protracted legal negotiations and/or actions.
    - These couples may be less concerned about each other than about maintaining the integrity of their holdings. They believe that the marital estate should be preserved as much as possible, thereby calling for a more efficient and expeditious route to divorce.
    - These are couples who have significant estates, are self-employed or hold stock in closely-held or family-owned businesses and/or have inherited or gifted holdings. Wealth is not a contra indication for mediation. Indeed the wealthy often have the least difficulty with the mediation process.
  • Often, one of the parties is more willing to come to mediation than the other. This does not mean that the couple is inappropriate for mediation, only that the hesitant party may need the reassurance of a telephone conversation or an introductory meeting with an experienced mediator.
Although most couples are good candidates for mediation, albeit some couples face more challenges than others, there are those that should not mediate.

Couples who should not mediate include:
  • Couples in which there is physical abuse, individuals who are fearful of the physical repercussions of disagreement, should not mediate.
  • Couples in which full financial disclosure is unlikely to be accomplished are not good mediation candidates.
  • Couples in which one or both parties are consumed by vindictiveness and the desire for revenge are often unable to rise above their anger in order to craft an agreement. At times a particularly pragmatic client can rationally understand the limits of their options, be it in the mediation or legal forum and therefore can mediate in spite of his/her anger.
  • Couples in which one individual or both parties is unable or unwilling to set aside his/her conception of the 'deal' to consider options which ironically may be even more favorable.
  • Inflexibility and a "my way or the highway thinking" can be antithetical to the problem solving ethos of mediation. A couple's ability to mediate is usually uncovered early in the process.
  • Yes, of course there are the surprise successes. individuals who appeared to be poor 'bets' and turned out to be able to work with their spouse to structure a fair and workable agreement. Others can only mediate if the mediator sees each one individually, working to bridge differences and facilitate the creation of a settlement.
Couples owe it to themselves and to their families to at least investigate all options, including mediation.

Dr. Lynne Halem, is the director of Centre for Mediation and Dispute Resolution, Wellesley Hills, MA. With more than 22 years of mediation experience, Dr. Halem helps clients to view the big picture and design creative settlements that are geared towards a win-win situation.

She can be contacted by phone at (781) 239-1600 or
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