“If you and your spouse aren’t speaking to each other, can you still mediate your divorce?”
There are as many reactions to divorce as there are individuals: anger, denial, rage, and acceptance, to name a few. Perhaps the most destructive reaction in the long run (particularly if there are children involved) is a complete shutdown in communications — the classic “failure to communicate” that leaves each party free to assume that his/her spouse knows what he or she is thinking, wanting, or doing and vice-versa.
Mediation as a means of resolving the issues in order to reach a satisfying settlement is particularly beneficial in such cases. One of the best definitions of mediation is “… a forum in which an impartial third party … facilitates communications between the parties to promote … settlement or understanding among them.”
If you and your spouse aren’t speaking to each other, you can use the mediator to speak for you and, through the skills of the mediator’s “translations” (either in joint session or in caucus), help you to chart a course for better future communications. After all, if you share children together you will need to establish a way to communicate effectively and to collaborate for their future needs. Even if your children are grown, you will always have a connection to each other requiring that you speak to each other from time to time. Mediation is the perfect forum to re-establish such connections.
One of the goals in mediation with couples who haven’t seen each other or spoken to each other for months (and even those who refuse to be in the same room together) is to use the process to break through the barriers of false assumptions, hurt, anger, regret, and loss and to re-establish trust through shared ( and “translated”) communication. At the end of the day, the parties establish a plan to work together in the future for the best interests not only of their children but also of themselves.
Suzanne Mann Duvall is a mediator with Burdin Mediations in Dallas. With over 600 hours of basic and advanced training in mediation, she has mediated over 1300 cases to resolution. Ms. Duvall was most recently named “Super Lawyer 2003 & 2004” by Texas Monthly magazine.