Mediation has been around for a while to help people privately resolve disputes. Generally, it has been associated with helping parties resolve legal issues, such as divorce, paternity, or even contracts or business disputes. But mediation can also be used to resolve every day disputes. In fact, the purpose of marital mediation is to help strengthen marriages.
Marital mediation is a concept promoted by New York psychologist Ken Neumann and Boston family attorney John Fiske. In marital mediation here in Tampa Bay, you sit down with neutral co-mediators. One is trained as an attorney, and the other who is trained as a therapist. However, they will not be providing therapy or giving legal advice. Rather, the co-mediators help you identify the issues that are causing problems in your marriage and help you reach agreements.
Marital Mediation Provides A Safe Space For Tough Discussions
A great benefit of marital mediation is that you and your spouse have a safe space to discuss tough topics. What you say in marital mediation is private and confidential. This means that you can be up front and honest with one another and bring up the tough topics that one or both of you may have been avoiding. You don’t have to worry that, if things were not to work out, any statement made in mediation would be used against you later on.
This is because communications in this process are protected by the Mediation Confidentiality and Privilege Act, which prevents statements made in mediation to be used against a party in legal proceedings. The Act also prohibits spouses in mediation from disclosing information learned during the process to third parties (except under narrow circumstances, such as when there are allegations of child or elder abuse).
The Differences Between Marital Mediation And Marital Therapy
Marital mediation is different than marriage or marital and couple’s therapy/counseling. In marital therapy, couples generally use the skills and training of a qualified and licensed mental health professional. The therapist diagnoses and treats relationship problems and/or personality and mental health disorders. This may include exploring how events that occurred in childhood may affect how partners are currently interacting with one another.
Marital mediation, on the other hand, seeks to help you and your spouse resolve specific disputes. It may also result in a binding or non-binding written agreement.
So, for example, marital mediation can help you and your spouse reach agreements on how to spend or save your money, which funds should be considered joint and which funds should be considered separate, and how much joint decision-making or autonomy you should have in these various pots. These agreements can be informal, and used merely as a guide to how you and your spouse wish to interact. Alternatively, these agreement can be formal, and incorporated into a binding partnership or postnuptial agreement.
By tackling these issues head on rather than letting them fester, marital mediation can help you avoid divorce.
An Interdisciplinary Approach to Marital Mediation
Unlike therapy or traditional mediation, Family Diplomacy offers an interdisciplinary approach to dispute resolution. Your marital mediation team will consist of two co-mediators: a mental health professional (“MHP”) mediator and an attorney mediator. The MHP mediator helps keep you and your spouse calm and focused on the issues at hand. If you have children, the MHP mediator will help guide you through disputes involving or affecting the kids.
The attorney mediator will help you identify legal considerations in your disputes. Oftentimes, couples are not aware of how their actions are viewed by the law until they are in the throes of divorce. Though the attorney mediator cannot provide you with legal advice, the attorney mediator can provide you with legal information to help you make decisions. Further, the attorney mediator will help wordsmith any agreement you and your spouse reach so that it matches your intent.
You and your spouse will be clear on how you wish to structure your marriage and decision-making processes. And you will have come to agreements in a supportive, well-informed environment.
If you and your spouse are seeking to work on the underlying dynamics or personality or mental health disorders that are causing you issues, then your path is likely marital therapy. If, on the other hand, you and your spouse are seeking to resolve specific disputes, and you need help getting on the same page, then you should learn more about marital mediation. This can help strengthen your relationship so you can go on to enjoy a long, healthy marriage.
Adam B. Cordover is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Law Mediator. He is author of an American Bar Association book on dispute resolution and has presented throughout the United States, Canada, and Israel on mediation and alternative dispute resolution.