Mediation - Home Economics 101
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Mediation at its finest produces practical results. If needs are met, then fear is diminished. In this economy meeting needs isn't easy, and therefore fear runs wild. I tell mediation participants that most bad things stem from fear.
Attorneys, by collective reputation, inspire bone-chilling fear in people. Therefore, the very whisper of attorney involvement ("I'm calling my lawyer!") causes immediate harm to the process, whether intended to do so or not. That is a known fear.
Divorce also produces fear of the unknown. In a great number of households, one spouse is historically the "bookkeeper." This puts the non-bookkeeper in the disadvantageous position of having to cope with, yuk, math, for heavens sake...Emotional upheavals and focus upon home economics do not go together. Unfortunately, gaining control over finances goes a long way to control over moving your life along.When I mediate between spouses, I force-feed monthly economic reality to and through both parties. That includes together calculating annual shortfall projections each may accumulate. As part of "to do" lists, I often have the "bookkeeper" party meet with the non-bookkeeper outside of mediation to teach their method. The idea is that the non-bookkeeper must gain control over this new role in life, and if their lucky, maintain open communication with the other for future troubleshooting. People in marital relationships must dis-entangle property, children and their respective roles in handling those things. It is often touching to see the flashes of nostalgia for these roles which are in flux. More than once I've seen a spouse continue to help manage finances, or the upkeep of the house, after the separation and/or divorce. However, for most, this is the exception. It is time to learn how to function financially, each on his or her own.
Of course an attorney may also properly counsel his/her client to understand his/her own new financial operating system - but at great cost to the family budget, and without the other party's direct input and training. The always-present benefit to my mediation process is that each party digests the financial realities faced by the other. It gives them a little compassion for one another - "same boat" and all that. I find that this is true across a broad economic spectrum...People live to the extent of their means and therefore after divorce most people are set back years and year from their financial goals, retirement goals.
This additional benefit- Home Economics 101: learning to budget, pay bills and how to understand your finances, is the course we'd have all benefitted from taking in senior year of high school. For many of us, we never learned it, and for some of us who understood it, the challenges of separation and divorce may have made it difficult to face it. So in mediation, we face it together. We learn it together to gain a good practical skill out of a bad situation. It makes good home economic sense. Mediate.