Shuttle Mediation for Divorces Involving High Levels of Conflict

Confucius advised, “Before you begin on a path of revenge, dig two graves.”

In most people’s minds, mediation is a process in which a couple going through a divorce meets face to face with a neutral third party to negotiate the terms of their divorce settlement. When the parties’ ability to communicate breaks down, the mediator assists them in refocusing their attention on the issues at hand, explains legal concepts, and assists them in collecting and sharing financial information.

This process goes extremely smoothly for persons who are reasonably cordial to one another. This style of mediation is effective, despite the fact that it could take a little bit longer, even for the majority of high-conflict couples. It is possible for very high-conflict couples to temporarily set aside the anger and anguish that drives them to lash out at each other with the assistance of a mediator who is well-trained and has a great deal of experience. The objective here is to get kids to zero in on the things that will truly matter to them in the years to come. For the vast majority of people, this entails achieving mental and financial stability for themselves and any children they may have, as well as putting an end to conflict and all of the negative that it has a tendency to breed.

A couple can be helped to see that they want a resolution and a future more than they want to fight with each other or seek retribution with the assistance of a mediator, who can help them realise this.

When I want to stop a couple from slitting each other’s throats, one of the tools I use is to ask them to consider, before they say something hurtful to each other, whether the statement will bring them closer to their goals or move everything in the opposite direction. This is one of the tools I use to prevent couples from slitting each other’s throats. I want to bring up the issue that married people, particularly those who have been married for a very long time, are incredibly good at knowing how to get on each other’s nerves. Composer and songwriter Stephen Sondheim is credited with writing the famous phrase, “Quotes with a sting, quips with a sneer.” People that we have loved and trusted have a special ability to locate the words that cut to the quick, that dredge out every irrational fear, insecurity, and humiliation that has been repressed deep within us. The vast majority of people are capable of learning and practising restraint before using language like that.

But there are those who simply cannot. Recently, I had the opportunity to collaborate with a couple who were unable to properly bite their tongues. They seemed unable to control themselves and made such insensitive, cutting remarks at every available chance; they just couldn’t seem to help themselves. As was to be expected, the accusations struck quite close to the bone. She stated that he did not live up to his responsibilities as a provider, a father, or a husband. He stated that she had failed both as a mother and a partner in their relationship. They both levelled accusations of being self-centered, wasteful, and treacherous of various types on one another. It just kept spilling out. At each and every key juncture, just when it seemed like a resolution was about to be reached, another gun would be fired, and another dagger would be stabbed. I have lost count of the number of times that I have heard, “There are no options left to consider. I want a judge to decide.”


So I decided to try my hand at something a little bit different. The process is known as “Shuttle Mediation.” I invited one of them to wait in my reception area, while I directed the other to my conference room. I went “back and forth” between the two locations. Because the two rooms were located on different floors, I had to sprint up and down the stairs, so I informed them that at least I wouldn’t have to go to the gym on that particular day. That resulted in a few people smiling bitterly.

They were able to focus on what they each desired and required in order to finish the divorce agreement after they were unable to continue the dance of death that appears to have been their mode of operation any longer the issues left to decide were minor parenting ones. Both of them became gradually aware of how near together their two stances were.

The dispute was resolved and the case was closed in a single session that lasted for a total of ninety minutes. In spite of the fact that Shuttle Mediation seems to contradict the concept that mediation is a meeting of the parties separately, it was determined that separation was the best course of action in this circumstance. It turns out that there are indeed people who can’t be in the same room with each other (or who simply don’t want to be). Shuttle Mediation could be the solution in situations like these, though it’s not very common; in almost two decades of mediating, I’ve only had to use it twice.

You can read an article that I authored entitled “Mediation? We Can’t Be in the Same Area”

It emphasises the point that spouses who are really angry are the ones who need mediation the most because the legal system has a tendency to bankrupt and devour people who are in such a state to death. I do everything I can to ensure that even individuals like them have a chance of being successful during the mediation process.

If you and your spouse are going through the divorce mediation process but are not making any headway because disagreements and arguing seem to be taking over the process, talk to your mediator about trying shuttle mediation. It is possible that this is the solution.

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