Ah, the 80s and MTV when bands still made music videos and we still cared to watch them. Many of you may remember the video for the INXS song “Mediate” at the back end of the video for “Need You Tonight”, with the band holding a different sign for each word of the song until they all walk away from the camera during the sax solo. Paying homage to a classic Bob Dylan song, Mediate is really one of the best videos from that time period with memorably cryptic lyrics that strangely came to mind while I was recently completing a weeks-long family law mediation course.
While some of the lyrics make absolutely no sense to this blogger, certain others work when talking about the benefits, harms, highs and lows of the mediation process. For instance…
- Mediate – Yes, mediate. I have written many times about how mediation is not only a beneficial way in which to resolve your case without great expense and acrimony, but it also allows your matter to be privately and confidentially addressed through the use of a “neutral” whose entire role is to settle your case. Mediation can occur either prior to or after commencing formal litigation, and in the course of litigation is a required part of the process because, ultimately, settling your case is almost always the best option.
- Alleviate/Liberate – Resolving your case through mediation will not only ideally save you on further time and expense embroiled in your divorce matter, but it will also help alleviate emotional struggles that accompany the process. Moving on with your life and into the post-divorce stage can only help your heart, mind and overall health (in addition to your financial well-being).
- Try Not to Hate/Don’t Suffocate on Your Own Hate – So often, parties are blinded by hatred for the other party that it even colors the mediation process and any productivity realized therefrom. Oftentimes, for worse, even the attorneys involved develop a dislike for the other lawyer or party that impacts negatively upon negotiations. Going into mediation free of that mindset will aid your case in moving forward to a resolution.
- Appreciate/Deliberate – Appreciate the mediation process and the mediator’s role in trying to reach a resolution. So often parties (especially when accompanied by legal counsel), head into mediation with their feet dug as deeply as possible in the sand in an effort to get the other party to simply give in. Such a strategy oftentimes fails, although one spouse usually believes that he or she will capitulate to the demands of the other simply to get a deal done.
- Fabricate – A fundamental part of a productive mediation or settlement process is the provision of full and complete disclosure of all financials (income, assets and liabilities). Concealing, misrepresenting, or lying about what exists can only lead to problems in the future should the other party learn the truth – especially when such disclosures are oftentimes made to the other party or the court under oath in the form of a signed Case Information Statement.
- Guilt Debate – Oftentimes, the mediation process is colored by one party’s guilt for something he or she may have done. Whether one spouse engaged in adultery, wrongfully spent down assets, or something worse, negotiations are sensitive to all facts and circumstances present in the parties’ lives. Each party has to knowingly and voluntarily agree to the terms of settlement, and agreeing to terms that may not otherwise be deemed “fair and equitable” because of something that may have occurred during the marriage can potentially prove to a be a long-term mistake.
- The Youth Irate – Resolving your case, whether in mediation or otherwise, not only acts to your benefit in allowing you to move on with your life, but also it allows your children to transition to a life without a divorce matter consuming their everyday existence. No matter how hard parents may try (or not try) to avoid involving the children in the divorce matter, they oftentimes know what is going on, or simply feel the cloud of conflict hanging in the air. While most parents say that the children are the highest priority in a case, oftentimes their own actions undermine what may be a very genuine sentiment.
- Atomic Fate – A.K.A., “Trial”. Not every case can settle in mediation or otherwise. Sometimes, a case simply needs to go to trial so that a judge can make the final decisions on issues despite knowing very little about your life. Whether it is a desire to be proven right, a preference for airing dirty laundry, or a fear of agreeing to something that may very well impact your life for decades to come, a resolution may not be possible.
On the heels of my last blog post regarding settlement, and many other posts on this blog about mediation and the settlement process, the above should not only be used as a reminder of a great 80s song, but also about how only you and your spouse can control how a case resolves. Mediation is a great tool by which to achieve that goal, and hopefully give you What You Need….
Robert Epstein is a partner in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Family Law Practice Group and practices throughout New Jersey. He can be reached at (973) 994-7526, or firstname.lastname@example.org.