I recently wrote about Positional versus Principled negotiations. In Rhode Island divorce mediations, we work to find a solution that reconciles interests, not positions. Although parties present conflicting positions, as an experienced Rhode Island divorce mediator, Steven Hirsch works to explore the underlying interests that the parties share. Although not in the forefront of their minds, most parents with conflicting positions share these interests: (a) children should not witness arguments/fights between the parents; (b) the children should not be quizzed about what they do with the other parent; (c) the children do not have to make the choice between one parent or the other; (d) the children have a sense of security and love from both parents; (e) the divorce process should not be the start of a child's emotional tail-spin. These, plus other interests and goals are used to brainstorm and find an optimal solution for a parenting plan. Remember, parents know their children better than lawyers or Judges. Parents, with a mediator, are in the best position to develop a parenting plan promoting the physical and emotion health of the children and parties.
Financial issues can be resolved in the same manner. In searching behind a declared position for the underlying basic interests, mediators consider bedrock concerns that motivate all people. These needs should be satisfied to achieve a solution. Bedrock interests include security, financial well-being, a sense of belonging, recognition and control over one's life. These are easily overlooked. It is almost impossible to settle an alimony claim if the amount of support leaves the payer without sufficient income to meet his/her needs. Brainstorming in mediation studies both parties' financial needs and abilities in order to find a solution. Alimony may mean to the recipient economic well being, psychological security and recognition that she/he is being treated as an equal. If the payer cannot afford the positional amount sought, the recipient may accept less if the need for security and recognition are met in other ways.
To prepare for mediation, a party should inventory her/his interests. Be prepared to explain those interests. Make the interests come alive with accurate (not overblown) descriptions. Don't describe a migraine as a slight headache or a near death experience. Being accurate and credible is most important. Be open and consider asking the other party "to correct me if I am wrong". Include some words showing that you consider your perception of the other side's interests. People listen better when they feel that you understand their interests.
This process is not natural for many people. That is why Steven J. Hirsch, Esq., a successful divorce mediator since 1994 has helped hundreds of divorcing couples find creative and fair solutions to their dispute.