Co-Mediation: A Formula for Increased Success in Matrimonial Mediations
By: Carolyn Laredo, Law & Mediation Offices of Carolyn M. Laredo, PLLC
Why consider co-mediation?
Men and women communicate and listen differently. Is it “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”? Well, maybe. I have been working in the mediation field for over 30 years and some people we work with have different comfort levels speaking with or being able to listen to a specific gender. A co-mediation team’s primary role is to guide the parties through the resolution process with this in mind.
Over my many years in the field, I have found that a co-mediation model for resolving matrimonial conflict can provide resolution of spousal differences in a shorter period of time. As a result, they have lower mediation costs, reduced emotional stress and anxiety for themselves and their families, and end up with greater net assets to divide and share. For those who have children, this model has also contributed to the foundation of a healthy co-parenting relationship where parents are able to maintain an ongoing, cooperative, and respectful relationship.
The gender dynamic
Sometimes a power imbalance can develop within a marriage due to the roles each spouse took on, in both the personal and the practical tasks. When one person manages the running of the household and the other manages the finances, for example, there can be a divide in terms of knowledge about assets and liabilities. In other instances, the power imbalance happens when one spouse is a more dominant personality and exercises control over the other.
A gender-based co-mediation model involves two mediators of different genders and professional backgrounds who work collaboratively, and individually with the separating spouses, to mediate and resolve their differences and find an acceptable path forward.
The purpose of having mediators of different genders is to help negate any perception of an alliance or a gender bias or sympathy. Mediators with different genders also may use different languages and can approach negotiations differently which can help eliminate communication barriers.
In my own practice, I decided to address these challenges by working with a male mediator who has the expertise that is different from my own. I am an attorney by profession and provide legal information during the process, and my counterpart has a background in adult education, is trained in sociology, psychology, and child development, and is a certified parent coordinator. I have found that this team approach has minimized the gender-alliance perception of spouses, neutralizing the impressions that a spouse may have that a mediator and their spouse, who are the same gender, are “ganging up” against them.
An improved process
The co-mediation model also offers increased opportunities for problem-solving. Two heads are better than one for many reasons, including catching subtleties of what is being said in the meeting, developing options for resolution, and sharing information from different professional viewpoints and experiences. Success in mediation comes from the primary job of listening well and showing the spouses that they have been heard. In addition, having two mediators can naturally speed up the process by providing the spouses increased access to have their questions answered and concerns addressed.
The co-mediation process has an added, and perhaps unexpected bonus: they offer education in conflict resolution by modeling skills and behaviors that can be adopted by the clients. Examples include watching the mediators reframe spoken intentions to make sure there are no misunderstandings or the simple act of apologizing if you interrupt the other when they are speaking. Mediators can choose to explicitly discuss these communication tools with the clients, helping them come to resolution more quickly, communicate constructively with one another during communications, and strengthen their co-parenting arrangements. All of this helps minimize the chances that parents will need to go before a judge in the future to help to resolve disputes, thereby minimizing stress on themselves and their children.
As a note to be considered, in my practice I have chosen not to charge any additional fees for the co-mediation model as I believe that higher client satisfaction is the priority. Spouses gain more value for their investment and save on the overall cost of the separation process and complete the process with a higher sense of satisfaction.
Any process that enables the parties to move forward more efficiently and positively, with less cost, is better for both parties, and if children are involved, for their children as well. Co-mediation is worth the investment of time and consideration, and for some couples, is the best way forward.
To contact: Carolyn Laredo Tel: 845-639-1836 Email: Laredo@CarolynLaredo.com
I learned from my parents’ divorce and my own just how painful and confusing the process can be. I swore that when I became an attorney-mediator, no other family that works with me would experience what I went through. Many years ago, I changed my mediation practice to incorporate co-mediation. Co-mediation involves having two mediators work together as a team. Some of the advantages of this approach include: the mediation team can represent disputants’ diverse characteristics, a disputant has a better chance of feeling a sense of trust with at least one of the two mediators, the disputants have the advantage of the combined expertise of two mediators whose skills enhance and complement each other. I feel privileged to be in the unique position of applying my legal expertise to helping people develop their own solutions. People going through divorce can experience emotionally intense, private, and legally intimidating situations and my hope is to guide them with an effective pathway that leads to the best possible outcome for them and their family.
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