What to Ask in Divorce Mediation for High Conflict Couples

What to Ask in Divorce Mediation for High Conflict Couples

By Lisa RisnerAugust 9, 2021

Divorce mediation is a great way for couples to avoid the courthouse and settle issues without a judge intervening. Instead, they can make their own decisions and find solutions for themselves.

However, mediation is most often suggested to couples getting an amicable divorce. If you are seeking mediation for a high-conflict couple, you may need to ask more questions and set more ground rules before entering mediation.

Before you start mediation, consider asking your mediator these questions to help the process go as smoothly and effectively as possible. 

What is a High-Conflict Couple?

It’s normal for couples to fight sometimes, but some fall into a pattern of escalation and intense emotions. These are high-conflict couples.

A high-conflict couple will face frequent arguments filled with anger and resentment. They might act out their arguments with extreme emotions or behavior. Divorce can cause even more conflict between a couple that is already high conflict.

Even if a couple is prone to disagreements, mediation is still possible. This option may be less damaging than litigation if the couple can work together enough for a productive meeting.

Mediation often involves a pre-screening process that will allow the mediator to assess the couple and the amount of conflict they bring to sessions, to make sure that they will be able to achieve their goals and reach a settlement.

Is Your Mediator Trained in High-Conflict Couples?

Before you commit to a mediator, you can ask about their experience and areas of expertise. Mediators all have different training and are specializing in different areas, so feel free to ask about that.

Mediating for couples that have a lot of conflicts requires special skills and may not look like a typical mediation session. Deescalation skills are important, to keep discussions on track. Try looking for more experienced mediators who will be able to meet your needs.

Mediators may also specialize in custody evaluation, domestic violence issues, and other family dynamics. Mediators will be able to recognize dynamics as they play out and help couples decide if mediation is right for them.

A mediator might also bring in other professionals, particularly in child custody situations. A mediator can recommend the presence of an attorney ad litem, who represents the child, or mental health professional.

A mediator with the right training is an invaluable resource during a divorce. He or she can steer you away from arguments and familiar patterns and instead shift the focus back to the matter at hand, which is coming to an agreement as soon as possible. 

What Meeting Formats Are Available?

When you picture mediation, you’re likely picturing a couple both sitting in the same room and discussing things with the mediator.

That format works for some couples, but not all. These couples will need to be able to set aside their differences and answer questions honestly to find a solution to their concerns. Sometimes, the informal setting can diffuse the tension that would otherwise boil over in a courtroom situation.

If there has been a lot of conflict in your marriage, it may be time to try an alternative meeting format. The couple might both meet with the mediator for one session, with private sessions later on.

In some situations, mediators will meet privately with each spouse instead of in joint meetings. This approach is usually limited to high-conflict couples. Some are even offering sessions over video conferences instead of in person.

Mediators try to avoid this approach because it limits the focus of mediation sessions to the settlement instead of making the decisions together.

What Are Your Personal Goals?

Each involved party should have a list of personal goals in mind to bring to mediation. The goal here is to create a list of wants and needs that you hope to achieve through mediation.

For example, your main goal may be to keep the marital home or to protect your 401 (k) Plan from your spouse. The mediation sessions will attempt to meet as many of your needs as possible while also meeting your spouse’s needs.

Mediation will strive to meet each person’s basic needs before moving on to other concerns. 

How Do You Negotiate a Child Custody?

Child custody is a big decision for any couple, and it can be a major source of conflict during divorce. However, there’s no getting around this issue without a discussion.

Remember that your mediator is there to help you overcome obstacles and have an honest, productive discussion. The child’s welfare is always the focus of discussions about custody, and ideally, he or she will still have support from both parents.

Meditation may not solve all of your communication problems with your spouse, but some experts suggest that the mediation process is healthier for children than drawn-out court battles. 

In most cases, mediation is faster and more affordable than taking a divorce to court. A faster divorce can leave you free to move on with your life more quickly and establish a co-parenting routine with your former spouse.

How Does Confidentiality Work?

One of the major benefits of divorce mediation as opposed to litigation is that everything discussed in mediation will be kept confidential. That allows couples to keep their private life becoming a public record—including the financial aspects of the divorce.

Another benefit to the confidential aspect of mediation is that it holds up even if a couple decides not to pursue mediation, and instead litigates. It means that nothing reported during mediation can be used by either party during the in-court divorce. The mediator will also be unable to testify in court.

Keep Your Marriage Dissolution Private with Divorce Mediation

Mediation provides confidentiality and privacy that benefits your family in several ways. Though this option involves negotiation and compromise, it is in many ways more convenient than litigation.

Divorce mediation can be healthy and productive, even among high-conflict couples. Our divorce mediation services Santa Ana will facilitate discussions and help you find common ground with your spouse so you can make important decisions together. 

To learn more about our services, contact us at Divorce Mediation of California today.

369 San Miguel Dr #100, Newport Beach, 
CA 92660, USA
© 2024 Divorce Mediation of California, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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