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Civil Negotiation and Mediation by Nancy Hudgins
I conducted a divorce mediation recently where the parties have been separated for many years but now have started the divorce process by coming to mediation. They have been co-parenting their children during the separation. We have worked through most of the issues involved and are very close to resolution. What was to be the last session turned out to be the next-to-last session.
In this session, many of the hurts and grievances that they have been carrying around for years came out. Some of it was “stuff” that a rational person might think was relatively small in the big scheme of things. It was clear, though, that it did not seem small to the parties. It was also clear that they were still hurting.
An interesting component was that each thought that he or she had sacrificed more than the other parent. They each gave voice to their sacrifices.
As I listened I realized that they were caught in the conflict trap of living in the past. Although they both want to move on and to have a different future, they felt it was necessary to re-visit the past one (hopefully) last time.
What struck me, though, as they talked, is what great parents they had been. For more than 6 years they had been co-parenting their children—and the children sounded like they were great kids with bright futures.
What’s a mediator to do? I decided to voice the obvious. They had done a really good job of co-parenting. Likely they would continue to be good at it. Parenting is not easy. Co-parenting is even harder. They were adults when they needed to be—for their children. I hoped that they would keep communicating with each other and build on their past successes. Kudos to them.
Nancy Hudgins, a San Francisco mediator and lawyer, began specializing in civil litigation in the 1970's. She has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, chiefly in personal injury, medical malpractice, elder abuse and product liability lawsuits, but also in a wide variety of complex litigation, including civil rights, fraud and class actions. She has settled and mediated thousands of cases. In addition to civil litigation mediation, she also co-mediates divorces with John Duda, a marriage and family therapist.
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