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Don't Use Mediation for Divorce
June 23, 2004
by K. C. Wilson

Mediation is a recent expansion of the divorce industry as additional professions cash in, now, mental health workers.

Mediators sincerely believe they provide something different. Unfortunately, it is in form, not substance. As long as they act as extensions of the legal system -- simply separate implementors of the same conventions -- they can only create the same results.

Fifteen years ago, Chris Simpson (not his real name) was 32 when he and his girlfriend became pregnant. Though the relationship had been volatile he was delighted at having a child. He proposed, but she continued her cycle of temperamental breakups and makeups, even taunting him with abortion. One night she rolled over and said, "If you leave me I'll sue you for $1,000 a month. I know I can; I talked with my lawyer."

"She got pregnant to control me and I knew would only use the child for that. But I wanted that child. I wanted the best I could possibly give it," says Simpson. He knew that the ambiguity of its parents' relationship had to stop to at least assure the child's world stability. Before the birth, he broke up with her once and for all.

He did not see why this should affect the child having its father, but knew the law did.

"When a lawyer suggested mediation, it sounded like the solution."

He assumed it was an alternative solution, not just an alternative route to the same one. That was a big mistake.

Resa Eisen told him, "You must obey her (the mother's) instructions," making her idea of fathers clear, and would allow 2, 2 hour visits a week with an infant he'd never seen. "She was more concerned I not disrupt his daycare."

There could be no stability for a relationship here. There probably couldn't be one with only 4 hours a week. People spend more time with their friends, the child, more time with strangers.

Two years later, still desperate for his child, he managed to force a second mediation thinking the answer lay in a better mediator. But despite recommendations, "Sheila Faucher giggled at the idea of a man changing diapers. She saw herself answering to the lawyers, not us nor the child. After eight months she had avoided negotiation by trying to manage everyone's relationships instead. Looking back, she must have been trying to force us into some textbook she didn't bother explaining to either of us.

"For all [the mother's] faults, I believe she would have agreed to an equal parenting arrangement had it ever been presented. But the mediators were opposed. They saw their job as enforcing the matriarchic wall: children are only for women."

All Simpson sought was some operational recognition of being independently important to the child, just as the mother gets. If his parenting was entirely at the mother's mercy he believed it would never be the constant he felt it had to be for the child. Paternal regard turned out to be more elusive from social workers. His mission for the child's stability, which started, "His parents are together or not," then forced to, "He has a father or not," got a negative answer from the matriarchal wall. A mediator's job is to get men to accept their lot as the inconvenience the law also regards them as being. Simpson now feels, "I would have been better treated by the courts."

Since both courts and mediators only impose the law -- not seek what would benefit children -- the only solution is to change what they impose. That's up to us, society, not lawyers nor shrinks.

Where is Simpson today? He's a deadbeat dad, of course.

Copyright © 2004 K.C.Wilson. K.C. Wilson is the author of Co-parenting for Everyone, Male Nurturing, and other books on family and men's issues, available as e-books at http://harbpress.com.

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