The Many Roles of a Mediator/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

A mediator is a professional who helps parties involved in disputes avoid reaching an impasse. But the Mediator may truly be able to impact on lives in ways not conveyed in a simple job-description. Because of her/his role of trust, a Mediator might find that there is a role to play in the following mental health areas:
1. Because of the burdens of being in a conflict situation, a person might be suffering from anxiety, depression, insomnia, etc. It would not be inappropriate for a mediator to lightly touch on the topic of seeking therapeutic help when a person or persons seems to be exhibiting “battle fatigue”. (It might well be possible to discuss this in a caucus situation.)
2. A couple seeking divorce mediation, may be well-served to first seek out the assistance of a marital therapist. While this advice might short-circuit a potential fee, there is a potentially “higher profit” in the making. A timely referral in such an event is an indication of the concern and caring that prompt many people to seek a career in the mediation field.
3. It has been said that in a divorce the only parties truly non-responsible for the turn of events are the children. Mediation process offers opportunities to remind the parties of their obligations to ensure the mental health of the children of the marriage.
The above examples are only the “tip of the iceberg”. If you are a mediator, consider how your duties may well include providing “full service” to your clients.

Hidden Costs in Divorce/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Divorce is increasing (now estimated to be well over 50% of all marriages) and the attendant problems they often usher in are increasing as well. What ripple effects are caused by the greater prevalence of divorce?  I will outline three areas of impact.

CHILDREN AT RISK 

In the field of divorce, the work of one person stands out for thorough research methods. Her name was Dr. Judith Wallerstein. Dr. Wallerstein is reputed to have interviewed more divorcing couples than any other person in history. Dr. Wallerstein was curious if divorce affected the well-being of children. Early in her career, Dr. Wallerstein presumed that lower-class children were more prone to the harmful effects of divorce than were their wealthier peers. Ultimately, Dr. Wallerstein concluded that class was not the determinant of how children might be harmed by the divorce in the family. What she did conclude was that children whose parents had an amicable divorce were less likely to be harmed by parental divorce than were children whose parents had a bitter and rancorous divorce.

 POVERTY

It is well known that when a couple divorces, each party is highly likely to be in greater financial peril than they were previously. A study cited in “The Divorce Revolution” found that women have a 73% drop in their standard of living after divorce.  This presents a challenge to communities and its leadership.

MENTAL HEALTH

Divorce is considered one of life’s most traumatic events. It is difficult for the adults and it is more difficult for children. Family members affected by divorce are prone to episodes of depression, “acting out”, withdrawal, feelings of guilt, etc. Many such individuals do not recognize their symptoms or do not wish to seek professional help. The reasons might be shame, lack of esteem, feelings of hopelessness, etc. At times, a family who was once affluent, but now beset by financial woes, will not wish to seek help because they are too proud to acknowledge their need to pay reduced fee or no fee. People who have just been divorced do not always step forward to get the assistance they need in meeting their mental health challenges. For a person who has experienced good health for all of their life prior to divorce, their new status brings them shame and bewilderment. (Studies have suggested that divorced men are 10 times more likely than married men to seek mental health counseling. This challenge is little-discussed in the literature, in my opinion.

We have defined some of the challenges brought on by increasing challenges to the family. Are we prepared to tackle any of these concerns?