TAG | mediation services

My younger daughter and I volunteer at a food shelf as shoppers. We meet the clients and guide them through the shelves of the food shelf helping them make their selections and making certain they do not miss any categories. The broad spectrum of clients always amazes me; from young single mothers, to singles adults, elderly, physically challenged, large families, mentally challenged, your neighbor, my neighbor, the list is endless. We are to be friendly and helpful but we are not to ask personal questions or make the clients uncomfortable, for obvious reasons. Every once in a while we will have a client “type” we have helped before.

She is in her 50’s or 60’s, well dressed; her intake sheet indicates she is shopping for one adult, often plus a pet. Her eyes are downcast and she rarely makes eye contact. She is very quiet and polite but only answers our questions, never asks any of her own. She selects her items quickly and moves through the “store” as quickly as possible. She has an energy radiating from her of sadness and loss. She thanks us and leaves immediately.

I can only guess but I personally am certain she is separated and waiting for her divorce to be finalized. She has absolutely no available cash while the divorce drags on and on. She does not have money for gas, groceries, even the most fundamental needs. Her husband’s divorce team strategy is to “ice” his wife until she settles for less in the divorce settlement. Generally their kids- if they had children- are out of the house and only his wife is left to wait for the settlement. Sometimes this can last for months and months and months.

Thank heavens there are food shelves, friends, and neighbors to help her through. It all seems so cruel and sad. We all know or have known someone in this situation, or at least suspect it. I need to be clear; it can be a wife controlling money and the settlement too.

These women later, after their settlements and finalized divorce, often volunteer at the food shelf.

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Mediation Myths

There are many myths regarding mediation that need to be explored and dispelled. There is a lot of misinformation confusion. I’d like to try to clear some of that up by sharing accurate information regarding mediation and the services that mediators offer.

mediation services mnMyth #1: Only people who agree can mediate. If that were true, there would be no need to mediate. Of course people who disagree can mediate, just like people who are angry can mediate and people who don’t really like each other can mediate. All they have to do is agree to mediate, not agree upon every issue between them. Mediators do not expect their clients to talk quietly and never raise their voices, and a mediator truly has to feel comfortable being in the middle of people expressing anger and frustration, often times loudly. The mediator’s job, for example through restating and framing what a party says and asking questions, is to get them to really hear what the other is sharing.  Hopefully the discussions highlight where they have shared and common interests which allows parties to brainstorm resolutions.

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dispute resolutionMyth #3: A couple can only mediate if they have equal power. There are not many marriages where both spouses have equal advocacy skills. Ideally, both parties have equal bargaining power, but if they don’t which is more often the case, the mediator’s job is to empower the party who may not feel as comfortable in the process. She can see if the couple will agree to bring someone into the process who can help, such as a financial person or the party’s lawyer. However, there is a difference between unequal bargaining power and a situation where someone does not have the capacity to mediate. If someone cannot or will not advocate for himself or herself, whether it be because of personality, substance abuse or domestic violence, then only mediators with special training should undertake those matters, if at all.

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