Stories from Family Mediation
Stories from Family Mediation
Stories. When I started this blog, I thought I would tell stories of families I have worked with, especially stories of people who impressed me with how well they handled tough problems. The blog evolved a different way, but once in a while I want to come back to the stories, some good, some bad, some downright ugly.
In one family, the dad had been, by both parents’ reports, angry, controlling, and belittling toward his wife, but not physically abusive. The wife felt stifled and miserable and needed to leave. The husband did not want her to go. Bravely, he listened to her pleas and became persuaded that life would be better for their kids if he let her go (and also the kids, for much of their time). Actually, just letting her go would not have been enough, because she could not live on her income. She needed his written promise of serious amounts of spousal support and child support before she could get a lease on a place to move to. To his credit, he made that promise, as part of their mediated separation and property settlement agreement. I heard from these parents again a year or two later. Both said that their lives were indeed better apart than they had been together. Two of the children who had started to turn against their father because of how they saw him treat their mother developed closer and happier relationships with their dad after the parents separated. Life after divorce was not always rosy, but it was, apparently, better for everyone in the family.
In another family, the dad felt that separation was necessary, and the mom thought they had not yet tried hard enough to save their marriage. Mediation that they started with the expectation that they would be deciding on the terms of their divorce evolved into working out the terms of a Healing Separation Agreement. I heard from one of them a year or two later. They had indeed separated, done, during their planned period of separation, the work they had agreed to do to heal themselves and their relationship, reconciled, and stayed together. Their separation plan included individual counseling, couple counseling, separate activities, shared activities, and one-with-one times with their child. I hope they are still together. I am pretty sure that their child is happier living with both parents than he would have been living with one parent at a time. They were nice people. And they used mediation to negotiate a way to save their marriage.
In another family, the mom reported a scary level of domestic violence. In our first meeting, she was willing to agree to a parenting plan that would have had the kids spending about half of their time with the dad. He was not ready to face the reality that he would be getting divorced and did not recognize what a great offer that was. By the time the couple met with me again, the mother was no longer willing to share custody. They could not reach any agreement in mediation. Their kids had to keep living in a world of scary levels of hostility and conflict for a long time. I do not know how that family is doing now.
This is a pretty random pair of stories. There is no moral to draw from them. Every family is unique. What works well for one family may not work well for another. Mediation simply offers a private, confidential process for working together to figure out what will be a good plan for your family.
Virginia L Colin, Ph.D. is a Professional Family Mediator certified by the Virginia Supreme Court. She is not an attorney or a therapist. For a free consultation about whether family mediation would be helpful for you, contact her at mediatorQ@gmail.com or 703-864-2101.