Is Mediation Really for You?


When most couples decide on mediation, they often have no idea what it’s all about. In this alternative dispute resolution process, both parties need to have an open mind. This is not always the case, however. In fact, it’s rarely the case.

Mediation is not for you if you don’t have an open mind. Many times one spouse will bring the other spouse into mediation so that they can start a dialogue. However, if pressed, the spouse pushing for mediation will admit there is at least one item — or more than one — that they will not bend on. This means they are not a candidate for mediation and they should not be pushing for this type of resolution. Mediation should not be used as a tool to coerce one spouse into agreeing on everything the other spouse wants.

A good example is a husband who brings his wife in for mediation under the "guise" of its benefits: less costly, usually less lengthy and more amicable than litigation. However, mediation has very limited parameters when it comes to questions of child and spousal support. Both types of support are governed by statutes specifying the amount of support that must be paid for certain marriages with children, up to a certain dollar amount. These statutes also specify exactly what child support covers and what it does not cover.

We find that many people who start the mediation process are simply looking to get around the basic fact that child support is based on a percentage of a person's income (gross income minus approximately 7.64 percent deduction) and the number of children receiving support: 17 percent for one child, 25 percent for two, and so on. Spousal support is also based on a specific formula.

In my experience, more than half of all mediation proceedings are brought by a party who does not want to be bound by the specific statutes governing divorce. And the result is that couples go through numerous sessions of mediation until one of them confesses that they cannot — and will not — be open to standard child and spousal support payments as governed by the applicable enumerated statutes. Therefore, it benefits both parties to know from the outset whether or not they have an open mind about the process. The party with the lion’s share of custody who would not have to pay support should be made aware that the other party is seeking to "deviate" from child support for what may be very good reasons that will be explained through the mediation process. However, a party entitled to receive a standard statutory amount who is not "open" to a creative and out-of-the-box solution that deviates from the standard should not be entering into mediation.

And any party customarily charged with paying the statutory amounts of support should not be using mediation to get out of having to pay it. If the mediation process shows that the statutory child support amount is actually necessary or applicable, the parties need to agree to that. If they don’t and head to litigation, they will not waste their time arguing — and arrive at the standard child support in more than 90 percent of the cases.

If you are considering mediation, you need to do some soul-searching first. Ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Am I comfortable with a nontraditional custodial arrangement that is different than that the courts assign to fathers and/or mothers?
  2. Am I comfortable having an open mind toward my family’s finances and possibly paying more or less than what is customary in most cases?

If you answer no to either of these questions, or you want to use the mediation process to force your point of view on your soon-to-be-ex spouse, you are probably not a candidate for an open-minded mediation.   To learn how Solutions Divorce Mediation, Inc. can help you,  call us at 1.631.683.8172 or contact our Long Island office online.

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