Everything You Really Need to Know About Divorce, You Learned in Kindergarten

In 1988, Robert Fulghum wrote a book entitled “All I Really Need to Know I Learned In Kindergarten.” The mother of a four year old, I am reminded of the lessons I learned in Kindergarten daily, as I bear witness to my daughter’s journey.  As a family law attorney and mediator, I have come to realize that the costs of a divorce (financial, emotional, and otherwise) often depend entirely on the parties’ willingness to abide by a basic Kindergarten code of conduct.

Litigation vs. Mediation - “Child’s Play” for Understanding Your Options

Parents are more familiar with the mediation process than they may realize. In fact, parents often mediate disputes between their children - they just don’t know that is what they are doing. On the other hand, litigation - the default process in family proceedings - is more foreign in concept, as it relates to family dynamics. The following hypothetical is designed to illustrate the difference between litigation and mediation by applying both processes to a common parenting scenario.

Mandatory Mediation: A Comparative Review of How Legislatures in California and Ontario are Mandating the Peacemaking Process In Their Adversarial Systems

Mediation is a process in which a third party neutral intervenes in a dispute to assist the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution.  At its purest, mediation is a voluntary,private and informal process. However, as a modern practice of mediation has developed in North America, lawmakers have taken notice of this alternative method of resolving disputes, and have incorporated mediation into traditional litigation procedure.  In fact, mediation has become a precondition to a formal hearing in some traditional legal systems, such as the respective mandatory mediation programs instituted in California, United States and Ontario, Canada.

Best Interests and Little Voices: Child Participation in the Family Mediation Dialogue

In 2010, Walt Disney Pictures released the computer animated film “Tangled,” a film based on the classic “Rapunzel” story about a young girl locked in a tower, who leaves the tower to find adventure, against the wishes of her mother.  In 1949, NBC Radio broadcasted a program “Father Knows Best” about a family and its father-patriarch, Jim Anderson. The entertainment industry has long poked fun at the old adages “Mother/Father Knows Best,” and elicited decades of comedic dialogue born from the divergent perspectives between parents and their children.  
Social realities are often not very different from their fictional portrayals.  While parents often strive to do what is best for their children, their ability to make these determinations can be clouded by perception, self-interest, fear and emotion.  What is “best” is an entirely subjective standard and difficult to define with any sense of accuracy or certainty.  Notwithstanding, the “best interests of the child” is the standard employed “in all family law proceedings, including mediation, litigation, and custody evaluations.” 

This paper examines the circumstances in which the child’s perspective and inclusion is appropriate in the divorce mediation process and how to achieve a safe inclusion process.  Specifically, this paper examines how a child’s inclusion may inform the “best interests” doctrine and aid mediation participating parents in making the “best” decisions in respect of their children.

The Art and Science of Mediation: How the Principles of Commitment/Consistency and Expectation May be Applied to Mediation to Help Break Party Impasse - Part Two

In William Ury’s sequel to “Getting to Yes”, “Getting Past No,” 1 the co-innovator of the principled (interest-based) negotiation method considers the problem of impasse in negotiation.  Ury proposes a strategy for breaking through barriers.  The first barrier Ury identifies is closely related to Ariely’s principle of the effect of expectations: your natural reaction

Since the first barrier is your natural reaction, the first step involves suspending that reaction.  To engage in joint problem-solving, you need to regain your mental balance and stay focused on achieving what you want.  A useful image for getting perspective on the situation is to imagine yourself standing on a balcony looking down on your negotiation.  The first step in the breakthrough strategy is to Go to the Balcony. 2