Recently we talked about how to assess readiness for divorce and how to use virtual mediation as a functional way to go ahead with a divorce during the current Covid-19 crisis. Today, we will take a closer look at how people can decide whether or not divorce mediation is right for them, and how the coronavirus crisis might impact the answer to that question.
How Stress Can Impact Mediation Readiness
These days, many of us are finding ourselves cooped up together with family members for long periods of time. For many people, having more time with family is a wonderful and unexpected silver lining to the calamity of coronavirus. For others, it is a source of enormous stress. If you were thinking about divorce before the pandemic hit, spending more time with your spouse has likely had a significant impact on your feelings. One of the following may be applicable:
- You are no longer thinking about divorce. Perhaps you and your spouse have rediscovered what you really like about each other and now you are putting your divorce plans on hold.
- You are ready to start mediation. Perhaps you have become more certain than ever that divorce is the answer, and you think you may be ready to start divorce mediation.
- You are questioning your readiness for an amicable divorce process. It could also be the case that you and your spouse intended to pursue an amicable process like mediation before the crisis, and now you aren’t so sure that will work, or it could be that you never believed you were good candidates for mediation and spending more time together has not changed your mind.
If You are No Longer Thinking about Divorce
If you fall into this category, congratulations. You are one of the lucky ones. Sometimes a hectic lifestyle gets in the way of remembering why you got married in the first place. An enforced break from the rat race can have terrible economic and other effects, but if you have been able to navigate the effects without sky-high stress, you may have seen unexpected benefits. This can be an opportunity to reevaluate your lives together and make new plans that could work better for your family even after the crisis has abated.
If You are Ready to Start Mediation
Unfortunately, the first category of couples is likely rare. Challenging situations often get more challenging under stress. If you fall into the second category, there is no reason not to go ahead with mediation. We are here for you now, and you can schedule a virtual mediation session at any time. Resolving things remotely may not have been your first choice, but it can be as functional as meeting face-to-face. One note of caution, however: If being together 24/7 has created a temporarily high level of stress, do not let this push you into divorce prematurely. Be sure you have spent enough time assessing your readiness.
If You are Questioning your Readiness for an Amicable Divorce Process
Questioning Mediation Readiness Due to High Conflict
If you are in the last category, and the reason you aren’t sure mediation is right for you is due to high conflict, you might want to review some of our previous tips on mediation in high conflict situations. There are indeed risks when both spouses are not approaching the process with a collaborative attitude. There are also risks, however, with trying to litigate a divorce when one or both of you is struggling with high levels of anger or defensiveness. The litigation process tends to magnify such things, while mediation often tones them down. You may also find it impossible to proceed efficiently with a litigated case during the current crisis. Most New Jersey court matters have been put on pause. This could be the perfect time to take your case, or at least one or two issues in your case, to mediation.
When dealing with high conflict, the trick is to find a mediator who has experience and a high comfort level with such situations. Look for someone who is willing to implement a more structured process. This could include things like the following:
- Pre-mediation coaching,
- An emphasis on ground rules, and a mediator who is willing to act as referee.
- An emphasis on power-balancing,
- A clear focus on well-defined issues and written proposals from each party,
- More frequent caucuses with each participant, and
- Higher attorney participation than is common in mediation.
Fortunately, the virtual format lends itself well to a more structured process. If possible, you and your spouse should plan to participate on separate computers. You will still see and hear each other as though you were face-to-face, but the virtual distance can help defuse the tension.
Questioning Mediation Readiness for Other Reasons
In our next post, we will look at a few other reasons people might be hesitant to pursue divorce mediation. We will also consider whether or not the virtual process is a good fit for these scenarios.
If you and your spouse are wondering whether or not you are ready to go ahead, contact us today for a free consultation.