How to Overcome an Impasse


I often have clients ask how I handle an impasse in mediation. Here is an example of an email I have sent to clients who have become frustrated and are contemplating hiring attorneys and heading to court. I hope you find it helpful:

First I want to tell you I totally get it and I know this is frustrating. I understand why you feel the better alternative is to go and hire an attorney. Keep in mind, when you read this that I have nothing to gain by trying to encourage you not to do that, not monetary or otherwise. My only incentive to stop you from litigating is I know the train wreck that will lie ahead, should you go down that path.

While mediation seems difficult and at times like it is breaking down, it is nothing compared to the destruction that litigation will create. Unlike attorneys, I am far closer to my clients on an emotional level, think of nurses versus doctors. I grow relationships, and I care about the families I work with and the quality of their lives after they are done with my office.  Therefore, I try to guide couples down the least destructive path because at the end of the day, if you two cannot agree, and you head to court, I know what will lie ahead.

Also, unlike attorneys, I am invested in the whole family, not just one side. I know I do not see the entire picture because everyone is on their best behavior (usually) in the mediation sessions. However, I am still in the most objective position out of anyone else who surrounds you during this time. Of course, your family and friends will tell you what you want to hear, and of course, his will do the same. Of course, your attorney will tell you he/she can do “better” for you in court, and his will say the same. What they will not tell you is how much it will cost you, both financially and emotionally. That it will completely ruin your co-parenting relationship. That in the end, the ones who suffer are the kids… because I assure you, the issues that are holding you two up from an agreement are issues that will not even be discussed in court. There is SO little time to present your case to the court and that time ticks by at $300-400 per hour, EACH! Believe me, your attorneys will gladly participate in order to bill hours, but in the end, when you cannot agree on something between the two of you, the Judge will throw the whole thing out.

I want you to have this information, so you can make an informed decision from an objective standpoint and not because you are listening to people who have an emotional or financial vested interest in steering you in one direction or the other.  My fees are paid in full, the agreement is drafted, there is nothing left to do but sign and file the agreement.

My sole interest is getting you and your family to the finish line without making a three – five-year detour. Family court is absolutely devastating to family relationships, and many families never recover from going through divorce litigation. You have kids to worry about, their college educations, their weddings, that is all very expensive… even without adding in the costs of their activities and daily expenses. There is no way you will be able to provide them with the lifestyle you want to provide for them if you spend all of your money litigating. I have seen 100’s of people go down this path thinking it will be better in court and find out the hard way, it is definitely not. There is no flexibility… there has been a tremendous amount of flexibility in your divorce this far, it may not seem like it, but comparatively, there has been.

It is sure to be frustrating and tension filled for a while, but you will get into a routine, and things will be less stressful, eventually. It is just between now and then that you have to deal with. And the day you sign this agreement, is the day the healing begins, and the day the anxiety lessens. It is your choice as to whether you want to start the healing now or if you want to postpone the healing for several years.

This is the hardest part, deciding whether to finalize this, as it is (or close to how it is now).

by: Jennifer Segura

Jennifer Segura with west coast family mediation center
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