While Divorce Mediation may be considered an effective tool in assisting parties to amicably and expeditiously divorce in Nassau and Suffolk County on Long Island, NY, it may not be the best Alternative Dispute Resolution method for every couple seeking a divorce.
Divorce Mediator Must Recognize & Mitigate Power Imbalances
Throughout the divorce mediation process, it is the divorce mediator’s role to identify any power imbalances that exist between the parties and mitigate such disparities. Divorce mediators must also be able to identify situations where the divorce mediation should be discontinued or where engaging in divorce mediation would be unsuitable for the parties involved altogether.
No Fault Divorce Floods Courts, Causes Delays
With the introduction of No-Fault divorce legislation across the country in the 1970s, divorce rates began to soar and the dissolution of marriage became increasingly accepted as a societal norm. In return, courts became flooded with divorce filings and parties to the divorce began to experience significant delays with respect to the full adjudication of their divorce proceedings.
Dissatisfaction with Litigation Increases Popularity of Divorce Mediation
As a direct response to the overall dissatisfaction with the adversarial approach to divorce, divorcing couples began to opt for divorce mediation as an alternative to litigating their claims in court. While divorce mediation has proven to be a cost-effective and expedient alternative to litigation, the process has flaws of its own. Specifically, divorce mediation does not account for the likelihood that one spouse will inherently be more vulnerable than the other during the negotiation process when it comes to addressing certain issues.
Divorce Mediation Assumes Equal Power Between Spouses
Given the nature of divorce mediation as a practice, the bargaining power between the parties is assumed to be equal. Should the situation arise where one party possesses more power than the other, the divorce mediator may employ certain informal sanctions to maintain a balance of power during the negotiation process so the divorce mediation remains productive.
Methods of Maintaining Power in Divorce Mediation
An example of one method a divorce mediator may use to do so is to interrupt a party if he or she feels that the party is engaging in discourse that is counter-productive to reaching the goals of the divorce mediation. The divorce mediator will then re-focus the conversation to more pertinent and appropriate topics of conversation. By doing so, the divorce mediator essentially steers the parties away from assigning blame to one another and re-establishes the primary goal of divorce mediation: to resolve the divorce-related issues in an amicable fashion. In addition to this type of methodology to maintain a balance of power during divorce mediation, a divorce mediator may encourage the parties to put themselves in the position of the other party and view the issues from the other spouse’s point of view.
Balancing Power Can Compromise Neutrality of Divorce Mediator
However, when a divorce mediator takes action to interrupt negotiations, he or she is often protecting the weaker party by trying to balance the power between the two, and will lose one of the most important characteristics of the mediator: neutrality. If the divorce mediator’s actions result in unequal representation of either party, the divorce mediator’s actions would violate the Model Code of Professional Responsibility and the ABA Standards of Practice for Lawyer Mediations in Family Disputes. Therefore, when power balancing issues arise, the divorce mediator has a tough job; he or she must consider the interests of the parties, the best way to mediate the dispute, and the professional standards he or she must follow while doing so.
When there is a disparity of power, one party has the ability to unfairly influence the other. This ability can arise from several factors, including:
- Guilt. Guilt can be a large influencing factor. For example, one party may feel guilt about initiating the divorce, so that spouse would be willing to compromise more than the other.
- Desire. Sometimes one party may want the marriage to end more than the other, so he or she might be willing to compromise more.
- Anger. Both of these situations can also result in anger, or lashing-out by the parties, instead of more willingness to compromise.
- Financial Power. Although the factors discussed above are emotional, the main motivating factor in divorce mediation is often economic in nature. In many cases, one party is dependent on the other for financial support. It is very likely that the dependent spouse is in a much less favorable position of power than the financially independent spouse. Further, divorce disputes are focused on dividing the assets of the divorcing couple. It is obvious that in this context, money is a major issue, and the party with the most money may wield more power.
Regardless of the source of the power disparity in divorce mediation, the mediator must proceed carefully when trying to correct the imbalance. He or she may have many strategic options, including avoiding certain issues, interrupting parties, etc. However, if the divorce mediator’s intervention rises to the level of representing one party at the expense of the other, the divorce mediator violates the professional standards to which he or she must adhere. Therefore, mediation may not be appropriate in resolving every divorce dispute.
Is Divorce Mediation Right for You?
To learn more about Divorce Mediators on Long Island and how they can save you time, money and stress, visit this page: Divorce Mediator Long Island | Nassau County & Suffolk County. If you have questions about the viability of Divorce Mediation in your Long Island divorce case, please contact us for a free complimentary consultation. The law firm of Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. is committed to the growth of divorce mediation and collaborative divorce as cost effective alternatives to the time-consuming and costly litigation ordinarily required to resolve divorce and other family related matters. We believe that families, and most importantly, children, benefit when parents resolve their issues through less adversarial processes such as divorce mediation and collaborative divorce. Call us at 631-923-1910 or fill out the short form on this page for a free, complimentary consultation where we can discuss the specifics of your case to determine if divorce mediation is right for your unique circumstances.