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Is your Separation Complicated?

Some couples feel stuck because they are unsure how to move forward in their separation. Other couples feel stuck because they have either a challenging dynamic with their soon to be former spouse or they have complicated finances (or all three).

Over the past few years I have noticed that many of my referrals have been very complex. At times I have considered some of these “centre court shot” files and half joking about preferring to be referred the “easy layup.” If you can hang in here with me I am going to continue with this basketball analogy a little later as it is more relatable when compared to mediation for most people.

Mediators understand that it is not accurate to declare a mediation a success or not based on the outcome and yet that is the metric a lot of people use. Some of my best mediations have not resulted in a settlement or agreement and yet for all participants (including counsel) to feel satisfied, this typically means that an agreement has been reached. Having reached an agreement in several extremely complicated circumstances I started to reflect on the common denominators so that I can leverage them in future mediations.

As a family mediator based in British Columbia, here are my three tips to help families when the path forward is complex:

1. The mediator can’t want it more than the participants.

If I am getting the sense that I want a resolution more than my clients, this is a warning sign and I need to check in with them separately and with myself. While this is true for all files, it is especially true for complex files. If both spouses want to move forward, we usually do.

2. Don’t add to the complexity. 

The reality is that it can be quite challenging to simplify a complex situation but it is often possible. This is when giving serious thought and consideration to how you plan to present information or options in between mediation sessions can be helpful.

3. The mediation process design has to allow for self-determination.

Last year I created and presented a webinar for Family Mediation Canada titled, “Applying the Principle of Self Determination in Family Mediation.” One of the objectives of this webinar was to highlight the importance of a client centered approach, so that our clients can have more opportunities to self-determine the outcome that they feel is right for their circumstance.

I have found that when my mediation process applies these three principles that we move closer and closer to the hoop. I do not need to throw up a ball from centre court and cross my fingers, I just need to move us all closer over time so that the easy layup is right in front of us.