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Your ex won't mediate?...

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So you've been thinking of using mediation to sort out your issues, but your ex is either ignoring you or wants to fight it out.

It's a common concern, and something that arises perfectly naturally when parties are in conflict. In short, if you're arguing about something, why on earth would they want to sit down and talk it through in mediation? The draw of instructing a lawyer might have some appeal, as it can provide parties in conflict with some idea of procedural justice, the notion that someone with expertise can fight your corner and get a decision that validates what you perceive are your rights.

Mediation approaches your conflict a little differently. The idea is that, instead of passing your interests into the hands of others within a system not designed around your specific needs, you keep control of the journey. It's your issues, your life, your kids, your interests. Often underlying the conflict is an issue, or a few issues, that actually have little to do with the law, issues that if explored in a safe environment free of judgement, could be resolved by working out what each party really wants to move forward. Passing your conflict to lawyers and courts to sort out will rarely give you an opportunity to genuinely resolve those underlying issues; often, the best you'll receive is a decision that you're left to get on with, to deal with, and therefore, what you have in your hands after all that arguing, all that legal expense and stress, is a piece of paper confirming a decision that one, or even both, of you may not be happy about. This can lead to those underlying issues never being resolved.

In mediation, you have a better chance to work out more of a 'win-win' outcome, where both of you end up with something you can live with, an understanding that will work in the long-term because you both came to that understanding together, with constructive talking aided by an experienced mediator.

In other words, deep resolution.

so how can i get them to think like this?

It's important to remember that mediation only works if the parties come into it voluntarily, so pushing them into it is likely to make things difficult even if they do end up mediating with you. The best approach you can take if your ex shows a lack of interest in mediation, is to separate the problem from the process.

What does this mean?

It means putting across to your ex that ok, you both have this issue that needs sorted, but regardless of who's right or wrong, it's likely to serve both your interests if less time, hassle and money is spent trying to resolve it.

So here are three basic steps you can take to get this message across:

step1: information

Try sending an email or letter saying something like "I know we don't see eye to eye on this, and I know we'll need to sort it out soon. I don't want us to spend time & money on lawyers and courts, and wondered if mediation might help". Then point your ex to this site or some other mediation resources. You're doing this not in a forceful or judgemental way, but rather to provide information of a process you've come across that might help you both sort things out with minimum fuss, time and expense.

step 2: repetition

If your ex is still not engaging, and remember that's his or her choice, don't give up on the idea that you can both determine how your dispute can be resolved. Try another email or letter like "I understand why you might not want to mediate this, but if we end up in court or with lawyers, we'll both face risks, and if one of us 'wins', the other's going to be pretty deflated so how are we going to make things work after that? I've been reading how mediation is hard but can save us a whole lot of time and money. It's our issue to sort out and I'm up for owning that if you are".

step3: lightbulb

If these don't work, a final email or letter might go along the lines of "I appreciate how you might feel about attending mediation with me, and am sorry that I've made you feel like that. I really think mediation might help though. We can do it online even, and you can chat with the mediator before committing to anything, just to get a feel for what it's like, how it might help. Even if you prefer to have a lawyer or court deal with things, I understand, but even though things have been difficult, if you change your mind I'll still be happy to try and sort this out by talking rather than arguing. Let me know".

The lightbulb might not happen for them, and it may be that you'll need to swallow that for a bit as no-one can be forced into mediation. But if your ex doesn't engage, never give up the idea, because the opportunity might come up again in the future and it's never too late to mediate!

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