The Power of Mediation: Finding Common Ground in Divorce

by | Sep 19, 2023 | Insights

Finding common ground is a fairly low priority for most people going through a divorce. In fact, when it comes to family law issues, litigation actively dissuades compromise by placing divorcing couples in an adversarial position, forcing them to argue against one another for each decision the judge makes. The court system works well enough as a one-size-fits-all divorce remedy but often fails to provide empathetic and emotionally satisfying dispute resolution. Mediation, on the other hand, fosters a cooperative relationship between divorcing partners instead of an adversarial one, allowing them to focus on finding compromises that work for both parties. If you can reach common ground with your partner, you might be surprised by how much smoother the divorce process can be.

Identifying Shared Goals

Finding shared goals can be extremely difficult when you’re sitting in a courtroom listening to lawyers argue on your behalf. Even the most cordial family lawyers are going to take an adversarial approach to get you as many concessions as possible. While that might help you squeeze a little extra cash out of your partner on the way out, it’s certainly not going to help you maintain a post-divorce relationship, and the bitterness left behind can linger for years. However, if you can find a way to compromise on some common ground through mediation, you’re much more likely to walk away with solutions that work for everyone involved. There’s a reason why the divorce mediation success rate is as high as 80%, and it has everything to do with compromise and communication.

So how do we find these elusive shared goals? Communication is key, naturally, but it all starts with letting go of that adversarial position. There are no teams in mediation, no winners or losers. That’s not to say that there’s no space for disagreement, of course, but the goal is radically different. Without the pressure of the litigation process, it’s a lot easier for divorcing spouses to relax and work cooperatively. Rather than looking back at your marriage with despair or bitterness, you can look forward to a positive and healthy post-divorce situation. When you let your emotions shift from bitterness to hope, it becomes much easier to communicate and resolve problems in a more constructive way.

After creating a more positive environment and opening up the lines of communication, the next step is to find where your interests and goals overlap with your partner’s. It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming both parties are going to always have opposite or non-compatible goals, but that’s almost never the case. If you have children, for example, then their welfare is most likely going to be a priority that both you and your soon-to-be ex share. Starting from that shared priority, you might discover that a stable and positive co-parenting situation is a goal you both share as well. Suddenly, rather than competing over custody, you might find yourself working together to figure out the best possible custody agreement for your child’s well-being. Finding these shared goals is the first step to any compromise, and mediation makes that process significantly easier and more painless.

Overcoming Challenges Through Compromise

Finding a compromise is easier said than done, of course. If making compromises was easy, then there’d be no need for divorce mediation services at all. Once you get the ball rolling, however, you open yourself up to more creative and satisfying solutions to the disputes coming from your divorce. In our years of experience handling mediation in Sacramento, we’ve seen plenty of disputes that seem insurmountable at first. Rarely, however, are they as overwhelming as they initially appear to be.

In many cases, delving into the motivations behind a dispute can lead to a satisfying compromise for everyone involved. As an example, we recently handled mediation for a divorcing couple locked in a war over their house. Both parties had strong feelings about the home and neither one wanted to move out, leading to a stalemate. However, investigating the feelings behind their attachment led to a unique and personal solution. One partner had become attached to the house after taking a major role in designing and building it, while the other partner was more attached to the memories of raising their children in that home. The resulting compromise? One spouse got to keep the house where their children were raised, while the other ended up with a chunk of equity to be used for designing and building a new one. While their primary goals (“I want to live in the house I built” and “I want to live in the house where my kids grew up”) seemed incompatible at first, the compromise proved that common ground could be found.

The Path to an Amicable Divorce Settlement

They say that a great compromise is one that leaves every party a little dissatisfied. We happen to hold a rosier opinion of what a great compromise can look like, but even if you take the saying at face value, it’s a lot better to walk away from your divorce with a little dissatisfaction in your heart than with a deep pool of resentment. The adversarial nature of the litigation process can permanently damage your relationship with your former partner and leave you with feelings of anger or hurt that linger for years. However, cooperating to find a solution that works for everyone involved can leave the door open to a more amicable relationship after the divorce is over – even if you are a little dissatisfied at times.

Divorce mediation offers a clear and easy path to those solutions. By emphasizing communication and finding shared goals, the mediation process encourages a more positive and emotionally healthy way of resolving disputes. Not only can this result in remedies designed specifically for you and your partner, but it can lead to a better relationship after the divorce has been finalized.

If you’re looking for a mediation attorney in the Sacramento area, why not give us a try? Formed during the COVID-19 pandemic by Sacramento family law attorney Neil Forester, Forester Family Law is a primarily virtual firm that blends creative ADR methods with discrete advisory counseling to help clients resolve a divorce, parenting dispute, or other family law conflict – outside the courtroom confines. Neil, a self-described “recovering litigator,” spent 18 years working in family law in Sacramento before discovering a passion for mediation, and he brings the full weight of that experience to every case. If you’re interested in scheduling a consultation with Neil, you can contact us through our website here or give us a call at (916) 234-6060.