How Divorce Mediation Is Like Hiking up a River

We have relatively few hobbies as a family. We like going to the movies (and by like I mean love), and we like to hike. I'm from Alaska, so hiking has always been part of my DNA. Thankfully, my family enjoys it as well.

On the Fourth of July my family and I went hiking near Kamas, Utah. There's this great bunch of waterfalls near the road. We decided to hike up the falls and the river for a bit.

It was great fun. The river wasn't fast-flowing, which made for a peaceful hike upstream. We would hike, then stop and my son would swim in the larger pools. We walked on the shore. We traversed felled trees. We walked on slipper rocks. It was great.

The thing I noticed about hiking up the river was how each of us needed to be flexible. There was no real path up, and we had never been to this river before, so we had to improvise and find our way.

Mediation Requires Flexibility

Divorce mediation is sort of like hiking up a river, and the # 1 skill you need is flexibility.

As I've said before, mediation is all about negotiation. It's very different from a trial where you go and present evidence and let a judge decide your fate. In mediation, there's constant give-and-take. If you don't like the path you're headed down in mediation, you have to think about walking up a different path by offering different things. You have to navigate the anger and hurt inherent in divorce. This means you might have to change the tone of negotiations to be more conciliatory. You may be surprised at how willing the other side is to come to an agreement, which means you might be more willing to work on solutions than you anticipated. On the other hand, the other side might dig their heals in on something, and you might have to determine whether to work around that or whether to go to trial.

Now, what I've said above doesn't mean you lack direction or give in. Even though we had to be flexible to find the best way up the river, we still had principles we followed. For example, we always went upstream, and we always looked for the least dangerous path. 

And while these principles ultimately led us to where we wanted to go, our path up the river included lots of twists and turns. It wasn't the straight line we envisioned because we had to make compromises along the way, but we made it to our ultimate destination.

Compromise and flexibility are not easy skills to muster in divorce. You may want to stick it to the other person. That, like hiking in a straight line up a river, is not the best way to get you where you want to go. Be flexible, especially in mediation. If you'll do this, you'll arrive at your destination in much better shape.

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