A Model For Divorce Mediation For High Conflict Couples


A Model For Divorce Mediation For High Conflict Couples
Doing mediation with high conflict couples requires a model that is especially suited to them

Couples who are too intense cannot do typical mediation because their emotionality precludes listening or focusing.
High conflict couples are filled with all kinds of negative associations which trigger reactivity, from just looking at the other or hearing their partners say the slightest thing. This greatly inhibits communication.
Couples at this level of intensity cannot relate and agree on extremely sensitive issues that have long-standing consequences.
High conflict couples are very powerful in their commitment to create heat and escalate the relationship into chaos. Thus, any model that you use needs to be just as powerful in reducing heat as the high conflict couple is in creating it.
In order to meet these unique demands, I have created the mutual divorce mediation model that addresses the nature of the high conflict couple and is best implemented by an interdisciplinary team of divorce professionals consisting of two collaborative attorneys, a mediator, two therapist coaches, and a financial planner or accountant. The attorneys agree to focus on fixing the problem rather than fixing the blame. In addition they sign a disqualification stipulation, which states that they will leave the process if the couple chooses an adversarial path with the court becoming the ultimate judge and not the participants. The finance professionals work towards dealing with the division of the assets in a neutral, objective manner. All of the professionals involved maintain their focus on dissolving any and all attempts at polarization.

The basic principles of the model are:

The model creates a safe container that truly respects their brittle and explosive nature and doesn't try to force them into being anyone they are not.
The model is designed to contain the rage of the couple without denying its existence.
The model offers a real alternative for communication beyond defending and blaming.
The model is just as powerful in reducing heat as the couple is in raising the heat.
The model allows for increases in responsibility when the couple demonstrates that they can handle it.
The model permits a couple to operate from a distance that is emotionally suitable for them.
The model assists in balancing the extreme imbalances, real or imagined, that exist.
The model insures that both voices will be heard.
The structure of the mutual divorce mediation model involves four stages. Some couples are able to skip certain stages depending on the level of their intensity. Before beginning the process, each partner is given a coach and a collaborative attorney whose sole purpose is to represent their individual needs and interests throughout all the stages. This contrasts with the usual model wherein the mediators attempt to remain neutral at all times. With each partner having their own coach and attorney, it provides them the security that their voice will be heard and that someone is on their side. This lessens their need to interrupt and make continuous demands. It needs to be noted that at no time will the coaches or attorneys express any hostility or put down of the other partner. Their task is to implement the process and not add to the escalation.

This article was originally published at The Relationship Doctor Bruce Derman. Reprinted with permission.
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Doctor Bruce Derman


Bruce Derman, Ph.D.


The great thing about my books is they provide you with a core understanding of relationship based on my 43 years of being a psychotherapist. They teach you how to move through your impasses without spending countless hours in therapy with the wrong therapist.                         

Location: Woodland Hills, CA
Credentials: PhD
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