In 2013, my husband of 18 years and I, were divorcing. We were raising 3 children and two dogs together. Our situation was complicated by having a blended family, a single income, substance abuse, emotional instability, children with disabilities, enormous medical bills, and a variety of other factors. My conflicts were significantly more complicated than the legal system or any attorney could ever understand in the 8 months it took to finalize our divorce. Reflecting back, the moment I got an attorney involved was the moment that peaceful resolution became less attainable.
I got an attorney, so he got an attorney. We each had attorneys and participated in mediation through an attorney. The process was adversarial, costly, and emotionally disruptive to our entire family. We fulfilled the mandatory requirement for mediation, but I left my mediation feeling bullied and coerced into agreements that felt unfair. Wasn’t my attorney supposed to “protect” me from feeling bullied and coerced? No. Attorneys provide legal advice regarding interpretation of the law. Part of the problem was that I had an unrealistic expectation of my attorney and the legal system.
Unfortunately, our divorce finalized but the conflicts remained unresolved. The attorneys and “mediation” were able to divorce us, but they took a lot of money and left us still in conflict. We went on with our lives for a couple more years fighting and unable to communicate well due to our adversarial stance with each other. Our children suffered as a result. All children, inadvertently, suffer when their parents are in conflict. While the legal system is the best resource for upholding the law, it is the worst resource for resolving conflict, yet it seems to be the only resource most of us depend on. My personal experience with the legal system as it relates to my divorce and parenting plan, proved to preserve our conflicts rather than resolve them.
Had I known then, what I know now about mediation, I never would have retained an attorney. Unfortunately, it was a painful process for me to learn that the legal system is not designed to support deciding what is best for me or my family. The legal system decides based on law, not the intricate emotional details of my life. I knew my situation best and I had to live with the outcome. It was not in my best interest to hire an attorney or have the legal system decide for me. I know my situation best, I needed to know how to advocate for myself.
Years later, I experienced another emotionally disruptive loss that catapulted me into my passionate pursuit of good mediation. I trained with the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish County in 2017. I completed the practicum and then worked for the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish County as a case manager in 2018. In 2019, I started my own practice.
Learning the fundamentals of mediation combined with my practical life experience being riddled with conflict, I have learned that resolving conflict results in a peaceful life. As a mediator I have come to understand conflict on a structural level and I have learned practical skills to deal directly with conflict and move toward resolution. I have learned how mediation is the forum for resolving conflict and is the avenue to a more peaceful life.
I have used my skills to resolve the conflicts I had with the father of my children. I did not get everything I wanted. I wanted their dad to be a different person. However, we arrived at agreements we could each live with. Believe it or not, resolution all started with my apology to him about how I handled our divorce. Today, we are able to co-parent to the best of our abilities and we do not fight anymore. We don’t enjoy each other’s company, but we are not in conflict. We even gather our complicated family on celebratory occasions to demonstrate some level of unity to our children. It is awkward and uncomfortable, but we demonstrate for our children what healthy boundaries look like.
I have developed skills to uncover the true, underlying, interests of individuals. This skill allows me to coach individuals in conflict resolution, which leads to more satisfying agreements. I am passionate about useful and purposeful mediation because the skills I have learned to help people resolve their disputes peacefully have benefited me personally. I have discovered the peace that resolution provides as an antidote to the pain conflict inflicts.