I am sure that Laurie Israel does not remember me, but I certainly remember having had the pleasure of meeting this intelligent and industrious woman at a variety of collaborative law conferences and Massachusetts mediators conferences. I mostly remember her for introducing me to the concept of marital mediation.
How does that work? I ask. Why not just go to therapy? How is that different from marital therapy? If a couple can’t get along why are they not getting divorced? Laurie patiently and encouragingly answered my questions. This is a mediation process that helps a couple develop terms to which they will abide in order to stay married and avoid divorce. The agreement developed can also govern terms of a temporary separation.
How will they manage finances and pay joint bills?
How will they manage parenting time with each other?
If and when they will discuss relationship issues?
If and when they will go to counseling.
Recently I received a notice that Laurie was offering a training in marital mediation. I wondered to myself, and then asked among my colleagues and friends, whether there’s a market for marital mediation in Western Massachusetts. While the training would be interesting, the cost time and time commitment was high, so I decided to forgo at this time.
All the while I was pondering whether or not to enroll in this training, I was simultaneously emailing with new mediation clients. The wife contacted me to schedule something that would meet hers and her husband’s work schedule.
I met with them last week. We reviewed the usual information about mediation and how it is confidential, safe and neutral process. I praised them for choosing this alternative dispute resolution process, and I handed them my Agreement to Mediate and my checklist of issues to discuss. As they were very carefully looking over the agreement and checklist, I sensed they were a bit nervous. So, I engaged them in some lighthearted conversation and then asked each of them to describe their goals for mediation.
Now, it was my turn to be nervous! They both told me their goal was to stay married and avoid divorce. They wanted to develop a plan for their family on how to proceed while living separately. I tossed aside my checklist and began to ask questions about what they were doing now, what worked and what didn’t work. We discussed in what ways they could accomplish a better system of parenting time, of sharing expenses, getting bills paid in a timely way, improved communication and spending time together in a more enjoyable manner.
It seemed to work! We came up with a plan and agreed to meet again, on an as needed basis. In the meantime, they were going to implement the agreement that they made and would address more deep seated issues by participating in marital therapy.