An Introductory Message Regarding Our MissionMany years ago my friend and mentor Charlie Asher, co-founder of UpToParents.org, inspired me to include as part of my mission at Heartland Family Mediators, a focus on what Charlie believed to be of central importance in the long view of the goals of UpToParents.org. Please indulge me as I slightly paraphrase the words of my friend Charlie: “At Heartland Family Mediators we look forward to a time in our country when we will be able to replace the description of matters pertaining to divorce as conflicts and disputes – and instead speak of them as calls to build peace and success in families by prioritizing children’s needs”. I believe what Charlie Asher has articulated says it all. The principles imbedded in Charlie’s vision also may apply in tangent to those couples who do not have children and/or who may not be in traditional relationships. At Heartland Family Mediators we embrace Charlie Asher’s vision. While as professionals seeking to help all we serve, we frequently encounter opportunities to contribute to a healing in the lives of those persons. But we also have an opportunity to help them find Peace. At Heartland Family Mediators we consider our efforts as those of Peacemakers.
When Intervention Efforts Fall Short
Among those who work in the helping professions, few would disagree that anything is more personally and professionally rewarding than to witness healing and reconciliation in a marriage. When a successfully reconciled marriage includes children – particularly young ones – the professional rewards are even greater. But not all situations can be reconciled. Some couples lack the will or desire to complete the work necessary to repair damaged relationships or hurt within a family; sometimes things have happened that caused hurt they believe is beyond repair; sometimes they are unable to forgive. It is difficult for the professional not to be disappointed in these situations, particularly when one or both of the parties remain in or near the community in which the professional operates or practices.
So what do you do when your professional/pastoral efforts to achieve reconciliation have been unsuccessful? How do you counsel a couple on what the next steps should be? When efforts to reconcile a marriage seem to have failed, and when it seems clear that divorce may be in the path ahead, we believe adopting the contentious model of getting divorced – using courts and attorneys – carries a risk of serious harm to the couple and their families. It can ruin their lives. It also is a potential waste of resources (the expense of the legal process) that could better be used for the interests of the couple and/or the children. If divorce is indeed a possibility, we believe taking the mediation approach provides the best means to successfully navigate the difficult waters that may be ahead. Mediation can also cost substantially less than the contentious model; it is child and peace-focused; and it enjoys a high success rate (better than 80 percent) in managing divorce issues. We believe your referral of these couples to the professional staff at Heartland Family Mediators will benefit the couple and their children.
Rights vs. Wants
When using the contentious model, attorneys are advocates who focus on the “rights” of their clients. In mediation, couples focus on what they want. They get to air their feelings, even their grievances, and find opportunities to heal. In mediation, the two focus on what they have in common as opposed to their differences. And couples with children, particularly young children, have far more in common than they have differences. When a couple focuses on common interests, the differences are less difficult to manage because both parties see their common interests.
Being Child-Focused Is Key
“Parents who agree about one thing will agree about everything, if that one thing is this: What do we want our children to look like when they are 25?” Pat Brown, attorney/counselor/mediator
In our mediation work, nothing has proven more correct than this statement. If parents agree on these matters, the mediation process becomes a series of steps toward aligning resources, time and effort in making their children happy, centered and fully functioning adults. The conflict areas become far easier to manage when the process focuses on the children.
The beliefs and values of the parents are expressed more easily using mediation as the model. Each party is encouraged to tell his or her story. The contentious model can stimulate anger. Sometimes cruel strategies are implemented leaving one or both individuals to experience life-long remorse for having deviated from their values and beliefs in the heat of a divorce. Rules of evidence sometimes limit what can be admitted in court. These rules can also contribute to rage, and poor judgment always results from decisions made in anger. These conflicts between parents can cause immeasurable and irreparable damage to children which can handicap their ability to have fulfilled relationships as adults. What parent, given a choice, would choose to ruin the lives of his or her children?
Focus on Common Interests vs. Differences
Most people commonly refer to the divorce process as a dispute. It is no wonder so much attention is paid to the differences yet the issues in dispute are actually only a small part of the whole. What parent wants bad things to happen to a child? What spouse wants to be miserable every time he or she is in the presence of the ex-spouse? What spouse wants to spend tens of thousands of dollars fighting over minutiae?
In Most Cases, Mediation Is The Best Solution
Mediation works better than litigation because it focuses on the common interests of the parties and not on the differences. Couples in mediation craft their own agreements. They compromise, talk to each other and hear each other.
Mediation is child-centered. If both parents are dedicated to finding a resolution that meets the children’s best interests, the process simply aligns all issues to support the children’s needs. One of the most remarkable and valuable characteristics about child-centered mediation is that as parents follow through on their commitment to travel the road to save their children from the ravages of divorce, in the process they save themselves.
Mediation is belief/values-based. Couples are free to use their faith, beliefs and their values in reaching agreement. The contentious model gives no significance to these matters, and the courts are agnostic toward them. An agreement that is consistent with the faith and beliefs of the parents is the agreement most likely to pass the test of time.
Mediation Is Peace-Focused
Unlike the contentious model used by attorneys and the courts, mediation focuses on peace in its aftermath. In contentious divorces it is likely neither spouse will see his or her attorney again. It is virtually certain they will never see the judge again. What they will have are memories of terrible conflict – unnecessary conflict – brought about by perceived “strategic value” they may have gained in the battle. Virtually all those involved in contentious divorces walk away with personal disappointment because they behaved in ways inconsistent with their values. And when they ultimately come to the recognition that they used their children for position, the guilt afterward is particularly acute and the damage more severe.
When a couple agrees on the importance of acting in the best interests of their children, they naturally move toward civility between themselves and peaceful resolution of issues. There is even momentum. Each movement toward each other for the benefit of their children has its reciprocal.
Can every couple achieve these ideals in mediation? In most cases, the answer is yes. And from that comes peace: Peace for the children, for the couple and for the family going forward. No, things will never be the same for that family. But peace can be found using mediation where it cannot be found using the contentious model.
Our professional mediators represent a wide range of career and life experience. The members of our staff – attorneys, a psychologist, a family and couples counselor and a financial planner – work together to provide child-centered services that focus on finding peace for families facing the challenges of divorce. Clients benefit from this team approach, as well as its reduced cost.
Heartland Family Mediators offers a full array of services, including divorce mediation, family and couples counseling referrals, collaborative divorce referrals, divorce economic strategies and divorce without attorneys (pro se divorce). Our professional mediators work together to ensure the best possible outcome for families.
We believe mediation is the best way to resolve conflict. Our services are organized in ways that ensure quality mediation that is cost-effective. All our professional mediators are certified through the Indiana Commission for Continuing Legal Education.
Upon meeting a couple, our professionals assume that the possibility of reconciliation remains. Our introductory remarks refer to that assumption, and our intake process includes an opportunity for a professional assessment by Louanne Davis, PsyD, HSPP, a clinical research psychologist and mediator on our staff. The assessment, which is not mandatory, can determine the potential for compatibility and thus increase the likelihood of successful reconciliation. Those who agree to consider reconciliation are diverted to couples or family counseling in hope of healing the marriage. The assessment, even if reconciling the marriage is not possible, also helps as a guide in the mediation process.
Elsewhere on this site you will find interesting and pertinent articles for your consideration in helping families. With few exceptions the articles are made available as a courtesy of www.uptoparents.org. You are free to reprint the articles and distribute them as you see fit. Click here to view these articles.
Also elsewhere on this site you will find the following videos for your viewing. With only a few exceptions, the videos are available as a courtesy of www.uptoparents.org. You are free to show them to clients as you deem appropriate. Select the resources tab to view these videos. Also feel free to refer clients/associates to this site if you wish them to view a video from another location. Click here to view our videos.