Integrative mediation is a specialized form of divorce or separation mediation that involves two neutral third parties: a mental health professional and an attorney. With these two neutral professionals assisting a couple through the mediation process, a more comprehensive and meaningful resolution can often be reached. One of the main keys to a successful integrative mediation is the concept of full disclosure. From the very beginning of a case, full disclosure helps to ensure a fair process and an even playing field for both parties.
Divorces can be extremely combative, and as a result, individuals sometimes try to hide personal matters to gain an advantage in Court proceedings. One parent may try to hide financial decisions, while the other doesn’t disclose certain parenting decisions. This is an extremely common reaction to the emotion of a divorce. Integrative mediation seeks to overcome that through full disclosure.
Working with a neutral mental health professional and an attorney, everything is disclosed in the early stages. Parenting decisions, money in investment accounts, funds tied up in equity of a shared house, and other things which may be guarded or hidden in a divorce process are brought out into the open. Full disclosure of all information ensures a fairer process for both parties and for any children involved.
How Full Disclosure Is Achieved
The earliest focus of integrative mediation is on goal-setting for the couple going through a divorce or separation. Heavy emphasis is placed on each individual’s values and interests. Those values could include how to share parenting responsibilities, how to restore trust after it has broken down between the parties, making sure both parties have enough money to live on after divorce, valuation and division of unique assets that feels fair to both parties, and other items which are often highly emotional in a Court proceeding. Once the goals of each individual are clearly outlined from a mental health and legal side, full disclosure is presented as the best option to achieve those goals. With full disclosure, a high level of trust is more likely in the process.
Why Integrative Mediation vs. Other Options?
Integrative mediation has some distinct advantages versus simply fighting out a divorce case in the courtroom. These advantages can include:
More fully-informed decisions
More comprehensive and lasting agreements that both parties can live with Better communications to handle conflicts going forward
Emotional closure and enhanced post-divorce adjustment
Less expensive than a lengthy and contentious court battle
Emotion is what frequently drives a divorce or separation case. Clients often are relieved to have a therapist in the room as part of the process. Therapists can frequently help to determine the underlying emotional root of a financial or legal dispute. If the emotions driving a couple’s decisions are not identified or addressed, it can delay or even derail the process.
For example, it is common for both parties to want to keep the house in a divorce dispute. They view it as a “home,” and as emblematic of their marriage, rather than just as an investment. Rather than focusing on what the investment is worth financially, they are viewing the house based on how it feels. The therapist helps them to acknowledge the feelings surrounding the home, so a joint decision can be reached that meets the emotional as well as economic and legal needs of the parties. The combination of an attorney and a therapist as co-mediators helps the clients reach a decision that works for them. In a Court proceeding, the clients’ emotions are irrelevant. This can leave one or both parties unable to settle, because their emotions are not being addressed. When clients are assisted to disclose not only their legal and financial matters but also their feelings about the issues being discussed, they are more likely to reach agreements they can live with, long after the process is done.