MediateTrix Part IX: Mediators are architects, not nurses.

This is the MediateTrix’s response to the HuffPo article  which suggests that mediators are the ‘nurses’ of the divorce profession. Wow. I had a surprisingly strong reaction to that suggestion. I say all of what I’m about to write with a keen respect and appreciation for the work that nurses do. (my own hospital experiences would have been much much worse if I didn’t have great nursing care).

BUT, to analogize mediators to nurses is just a bad comparison. The article, while well intentioned, makes an assumption that I don’t agree with. Nurses work within the hospital system to help care for patients and support the work that doctors do. But, let’s be frank, the doctors run the show–they make the decisions. (Honorable for sure, but not comparable to what mediators do).

Mediators are not actors within a hierarchical system like a hospital. The system that exists largely shuns our work. Popular culture promotes and idealizes adversarial divorce, our society teaches us that divorce is a legal problem.

What isn’t readily apparent is that the legal system is a rational one designed to deal with rational problems. People getting divorced are not purely running the numbers, they are emotional, they have complex needs that require complex multi-faceted solutions.

Divorce is a family matter with a legal element and mediators know this.

Mediators work to create environments where couples can come to a resolution about the matters between them respectfully, based on informed decisions and an understanding of the reality they face together. Mediators do not work in a structured system. We work in “the shadow of the law” to support and empower those who are getting divorced.

We help couples learn that they are entitled to make their own decisions in as non-adversarial a manner as is possible. External professionals like lawyers, accountants and therapists are present to support the parties in that informed decision making process. But, ultimately, the final terms are up the participants.

If anything, mediators are like architects, building a new system from scratch, one brick at a time. We collaboratively create a place where people can realistically live and parent and move forward with their lives. We are designing and creating better ways for people to get divorced and to co-parent. There is nothing wrong with being caring and helpful. But we also get the job done.

Our definition of a “successful divorce” might be different but that is nothing to sneeze at.

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