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Family Mediation | Post-Divorce Mediation | Domestic Partnerships and Same-Sex Marriages


Family Mediation

Some family arguments are best resolved over dinner or breakfast. Others—representing divisions or dysfunctions in the family process—are handled most effectively with a therapist who can realign the family structure or process deeper psychodynamic issues in the family. Still a third set of problems winds up in court, or at least with the family attorney helping to define the rights and responsibilities of each of the family members.

There's yet a fourth kind of family conflict, most easily identified by triangulating off the first three—that is, occupying a separate space that is more conflictual than the dinner table argument, less clear-cut than the legal argument, and more issue-specific than the kind of problems that therapists see.

It's this fourth kind of conflict we specialize in as family mediators. Because a family is an evolving organizational unit, its rules, agreements and hierarchical structures are constantly being renegotiated. Sometimes these negotiations get deadlocked, and families become stuck in an escalating spiral. They become increasingly polarized and the possibilities for resolution seem increasingly remote. The arguments get louder, or the participants retreat into icy silence.

Some examples of what we are talking about:

  • Marrying couples or domestic partners want to clarify financial arrangements and boundaries.
  • An infertile couple is at an impasse over treatment vs. adoption.
  • Divorced parents want to clarify or revise their parenting arrangements to accommodate their children's changing needs.
  • A step-dad wants to have clear rules about disciplining his new wife's children.
  • An older child gets involved in the criminal justice system, and the parents want to negotiate new rules going forward.
  • Teenagers want more autonomy, while parents want reassurance that their kids are behaving responsibly.
  • The parents of a working 18-year-old want her to either pay rent or share more of the workload around the house.
  • A daughter comes home from her first year of college and wants new rules about overnight guests.
  • Adult children want to distribute or redistribute the workload or cost of taking care of an aging parent.
  • At retirement, a couple can't agree on whether or not to sell the family home.
  • A new couple in their 70's wants help in negotiating a prenuptial or preregistration agreement.

Unlike therapy or legal proceedings, family mediations may be completed in a session or two. And unlike the breakfast table conversation, they can result in specific, detailed, even documented agreements that stand up over time. They are not for every family or every dispute, but in the kind of situations we've talked about, and with participants committed to solutions rather than ongoing disagreement, family mediations can turn situations of high conflict or chronic dissention into opportunities for resolution, peace and renewed family harmony.

 

 

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