There are two ways to get a divorce in Tennessee -- easy or hard.  "Hard" takes 18 to 24 months, the average cost is  $ 40,000, and you and your spouse won't be at the grandchildren's birthday party at the same time.

"Easy"  takes 90 days (60 if no minor children), costs between $1000- $4,000, and your daughter's wedding will be a whole lot nicer!

If the divorcing parties have children, they are connected for the rest of their lives and how they relate post the divorce is vital to the well being of the children. They are watching you parents like a hawk and will learn a lot about conflict resolution from your example.

My style of divorce mediation is facilitative. The parties work together, for the most part, performing various tasks designed to arrive at decisions to go into a Marital Dissolution Agreement and Parenting Plan -- documents required to get an uncontested divorce.  The parties will negotiate on the basis of needs, not positions. A position may be, " I am furious at my spouse and want to nail him/her to the wall!" 

In needs-based bargaining, the parties will create a post-divorce budget and will comment as to the reasonableness of each's line item in the budget. Once both agree the other's budget is reasonable, then the task becomes how best to meet those needs. Sometimes we use financial planners or the parties' CPA to crunch the numbers. Child support and spousal support have differing tax consequences; wise planning can increase cash flow and predict future consequences. 

A very detailed 17 page Parenting Plan must be agreed upon by the parties. Tennessee doesn't use the words "custody"  or "visitation"  any more. (Custody is for prisoners and visitation is for funeral pallors.) Now the court wants to know who is on duty, who is off duty?  Mediation is a superb way to perform this task.

In divorce mediation, the parties must be totally up front and honest about their finances for it to work. Everything must be on the table -- or else the attorneys will subpoena them anyway.  We trust, but verify with documentation.

Mediation takes about 3 to 5 two hour sessions. Or sometimes we perform "marathon" mediation all day.  Attorneys are always welcomed in my mediation sessions; it's up to the parties. Some parties, who have been in the litigatory system a while choose or are ordered to opt out of litigation long enough to try mediation in hopes of avoiding  the trial.

Mediation empowers the parties to make their own decisions. After all, the judge doesn't know either of them, nor love the children, so it allows the parties to be in control of the outcome, not some stranger. Mediation is quicker, cheaper, and, most importantly, totally confidential.   No dirty laundry is hung out to dry! Since the process is absolutely confidential, should mediation not work, the judge cannot know why nor what had been negotiated. You have nothing to lose and a lot to save. You retain all of your legal rights.

  Premarital Mediation

Premarital mediation is fun. Your money ? My money ?  Our money ?  Once we're married who does what around the house? More seriously, mixed religion or race marriages require some advanced decision making. Premarital mediation is a comfortable place to discuss some very touchy subjects.  The family of a fiancee in a family business may insist that some extremely important issues be discussed prior to the marriage.  Mediation is the safe way to hold that discussion

  Marital Mediation

Would you rather mediate the dispute in the marriage instead of the terms of the divorce?  This isn't therapy!  But it works to help each party get out of the corner that he and she's  backed into.  We list the issues, develop options, and pick behavioral changes to try out.  It's all safe and confidential.

  Mediation in the Shadow of an Affair !!!

While a hurt spouse may never forget the other has had an affair, they may not have to function on remembering it all the time. Sometimes some affairs may be forgiven. It may depend on what kind of affair it is. There are different kinds of affairs, you know.  You don't?  You two come see me. Mediation is the sane way to resolve a conflict such as this and it may allow for a relationship after the dispute is resolved.

I prefer the facilitative method,  facilitating  negotiations between the parties face to face rather than exclusively shuttling back and forth between separated parties.  Clients report they feel  more involved in the decision-making process, each having had a chance to be heard.  Facilitative mediation hastens trust of the mediator; there is less wondering and worrying what’s being said in the other room.

In facilitative mediation, each client gets to tell his or her story to the other.  Options for possible resolution get listed  (I use a flip since I don’t know if the person sitting in front of me is a right brain or left brain learner), discussed, and chosen.  And yes, this process allows each disputant to observe just how each may be perceived by a judge or jury. Facilitative mediators may meet in private sessions with each side to go through a specific process that helps the attorney chart and evaluate the case for the client.                        

Transformative mediation, which uses the facilitative method, is more concerned with the process of conflict resolution than the resolution itself.  This is often contrasted with evaluative mediation that is so "resolution focused" you may see the mediator evaluating the case for each side and then telling them how they ought to settle.  There is a form of ADR called Early Neutral Evaluation that does just that.  Employing empowerment and recognition as techniques, transformative mediation hopes to transform the clients from angry, self- centered, win/lose positioned disputants to cooperative, acknowledging, now and  future focused, responsible ones.  And maybe even get to resolution. It allows a lot of leeway for the clients to frame the issues and the discussion. Transformative mediators use the facilitative style.  Thus, should the clients not resolve all issues in that mediation session, the likelihood of them being able to do so before resorting to litigation is high.  According to Professor Robert Baruch Bush of Hosta University and his co-author Joseph Folger in their book, The Promise of Mediation , the mediation process should promise something more to the client than just closing the file.

Perhaps my style is best described by Professor/attorney/mediator David Hoffman in his article  "Confessions of a Problem-Solving Mediator" in the 1999 Volume 23 Number 3 newsletter of the Society of Professional in Dispute Resolution.  He contrasted transformative mediation with problem solving and suggested we experienced mediators intuitively engage techniques that fall somewhere in between. 

Again, the trick and talent of the experienced mediator is to know what style to use -- and when.

Certification of mediation specialist is not currently available in Tennessee. Approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Alternate Dispute Commission under its Rule 31 for civil law and family law cases.