By Steve Erickson
Even Pipe Dreams Can Come True
Thanks to Marilyn McKnight for taking initiative to send out that invitation two years ago asking therapists, judges, mediators and a former legislator to attend our first meeting of “Let’s get divorce out of the Courts.” I am pleased to report that I am also a member of that small group of people who have met regularly to figure out a way of extricating divorcing and separated parents from the adversarial divorce contest.
As we progressed in our thinking, it became more than just a pipe dream. We began to realize that the time was right for a change in thinking. Divorce should not be a huge industry of custody investigators, lawyers and courts, etc. with children caught in the middle. However, in order for divorce to become more peaceful, we realized it needs to removed completely from the toxic pull of win-lose thinking. We have to move it out of court.
Less than a month after Rep. Lesch and Sen. Pappas co-sponsored our bill in the Minnesota Legislature, here is what the news media is saying:
- Gail Rosenbloom writes in the March 29th edition of the Start and Tribune “Bringing Fresh Thinking to Divorce.”
- The Editorial Board of the Star and Tribune two days later on April 1, 2015 says “The smart idea would encourage more couples to use mediation and counseling to come to an agreement. If kids are in the picture, it would help them do a more collaborative job of co-parenting post-divorce.
This is only the beginning of the ride. We expect a lot of push back – but dreams (even pipe dreams!) sometimes have a way of becoming reality.
I just found this great article that was posted by the Pioneer Press local webpage a couple of weeks ago (02/21/2015). The title is “In Ramsey County court, mediators can save money – and anguish” – I say YES to that!
The author points out that divorce and family court disputes are messy and often involve a lack of trust between the parties. I agree. Not only do our clients have deep emotional ties to each other, if they have children, they will need to be involved – to varying extents – in each other’s lives for many years.
Then the article says “But with the help of a skilled mediator, walls can be torn down and new relationships built.” Again, YES to that! This is what we here at EMI often refer to as the business-type relationship. The mediator tries to help the two people get away from negative interactions and move towards a new relationship that has written rules and operates more like a business partnership. In an ideal business partnership, there is mutual respect, there is good communication and there are written rules for how the partners will conduct themselves in various situations and in the future in general. Doesn’t that just make perfect sense? Well it does to me too!
The whole purpose of the article is actually to introduce the new Ramsey County Volunteer Mediation Program. The article quotes one of the Steering Committee members and an attorney, both of whom were integral in the creation of the program – I’ll paraphrase what they said about mediation:
When a cooperative resolution is reached:
- Families are stabilized faster
- There’s a financial benefit
- There’s no need for a trial (“where the claws come out”)
- Both people have a chance to be heard
- Both sides remain cooperative co-parents
YES! Somehow I always feel validated when I read articles and blogs, etc. like this. Maybe it’s because I sometimes feel like an island at my desk, working with clients and getting involved in the practice day to day. Then, every once in a while, I find something out there – in the big world outside of my office – and I remember there are lots of other people (and even the Ramsey County Court!) who share our vision and philosophy. Indeed, a very nice article.
Thanks for reading!
As you may have read in our last newsletter, or if you’ve attended one of our seminars over the last two years, Marilyn and Steve have been working with a group of professionals to change the current divorce system.
The “Cooperative Private Divorce” bill is being presented in the MN legislature this session! It will offer divorcing couples a path to divorce that is outside the courts.
The exciting development today is that Bill Doherty, Ph.D., one of the members of the working group on this bill, was featured this morning on Keri Miller’s program on Minnesota Public Radio.
If you missed it, you can listen to the podcast: http://www.mprnews.org/podcasts/kerri-miller/.
Part of the program involved people commenting online, which, for me, was the most exciting part! It seems MANY people agree that it’s about time couples are able to divorce without getting involved in the adversarial system.
See some of the comments to questions like: “Would divorce work better if it was taken out of the courts? Could your divorce have been better?” and “Have you gone through a divorce? What advice do you have for couples that are considering a divorce?”
There was also a poll that asked Should Minnesota allow divorce proceedings to happen outside the court? As of 1:30pm today, 83% of respondents had answered Yes.
Now, I understand that (#1) many of the people who write comments online are highly motivated to do so and that (#2) we don’t know how many people actually took the poll (83% of 20 people is only like 16 people who said “yes”), but I think this is an exciting new development!
The first hearings on the bill will start tomorrow, March 4th at the legislature. You can read the bill by clicking here. It should be interesting to see what happens!
Utilizing Mediation Values In Clinical Work With Divorcing Couples And FamiliesMinnesota Society for Clinical Social Work
Wednesday, January 21, 2015, 7-9 pm
Mayflower Church, 106 Diamond Lake Rd, Minneapolis, 55419 (just west of 35W)
Client-Centered Mediation is committed to assisting both parties in the divorce process to collaborate toward a resolution with a sense of what is right, what is fair and just, and what will work for them. The presenter will immerse us in the sensibilities of this frame of reference so we can be guided by these principles and techniques in our clinical work with divorcing couples and families. Whether our client is the family, the couple, the individual spouse or the kid(s), we can integrate this paradigm into how we talk about and facilitate the marital dissolution journey in our clinical role. Participants will be invited to discuss their own divorcing clients’ experiences and ways to best support them.
GOAL: To enhance one’s working knowledge of mediation values in order to integrate them into clinical work with divorcing couples and families.
1) Develop an introductory knowledge of the range of client experiences in the divorce process and the core values of client-centered mediation.
2) Distinguish between the experiences of the “leaver” vs. the “left” party, and the stages through which each party moves.
3) Enrich one’s understanding of needs vs. positions, past vs. future, and “magical” questions in the context of the client-centered mediation process.
PRESENTER: MARILYN S. MCKNIGHT, MA, is a mediator, trainer and author who has practiced exclusively in the field of mediation since 1977 after an extensive career in public social work. She received the Bush Leadership Fellowship Award for the study of mediation in 1987 and is a leader in promoting the Client-Centered model of mediation. In 1988, Marilyn was elected to the Board of the Academy of Family Mediators where she began the movement toward the certification of mediators and later served as President of the Academy. In 1996, she and her partner Steve Erickson were awarded the Distinguished Mediator Award by the Academy for their outstanding contributions to the field of mediation. She and Steve have co-authored five highly successful books on mediation. Marilyn has taught courses at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work, at William Mitchell College of Law and in the Master of Arts in Leadership program at Augsburg College. She is co-founder of Erickson Mediation Services.
FREE to MSCSW members, $25 for non-members. NO registration required. QUESTIONS? Contact Mark LaChapelle at 952-928-8474 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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3600 American Blvd West, Suite 105
Minneapolis, MN 55431
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Erickson Mediation Institute
3600 American Blvd West
Minneapolis, MN 55431