As this blog has discussed previously, there are some situations in which it is best for parents and those involved in a custody dispute to admit that mediation is just not an appropriate forum in a particular case, even though divorce mediation or other forms of child custody mediation certainly have their benefits.
However, just because a couple is experiencing communication problems and other symptoms of a high conflict relationship, it does not mean that mediation is automatically inappropriate. What it does mean is that the mediation may require some additional steps.
For instance, a couple in a high conflict case should not expect to walk in to a mediation and spend just one afternoon working out all of their issues, although of course that would be ideal if they could do just that. Instead, a mediator may have to proceed slowly, figuring out exactly what is motivating each parent to behave in a given way. It can take several sessions just to set up the possibility of a successful compromise.
Moreover, a high conflict mediation can involve a mediator inviting the involvement of other people, including counselors, a court-appointed guardian ad litem and other professionals who are involved in the underlying custody or parenting time dispute. While it might seem that this is running afoul of the private nature of mediation, a good mediator can protect a couple’s privacy while getting the valuable insight of these professionals.
Although divorce mediation is not appropriate for every case and may ultimately fail in some situations, it is still a workable option even in situations involving high conflict between parents arguing about child custody.