It was time for something different. The professionals were at a loss as to how this couple had ever met, let alone conceived children. To my eye, the parents were just such different people. They each had some technical skills, and valued their education, but that only goes so far. They each had a keen spiritual sense, but now they were actively exploring different religious faiths. The situation was all looking a bit desperate.
I visited each party, and pointed out that in the other room everyone was every bit as downcast and dejected. Suppose I took the professionals out of the picture? I asked if there was any hope that the parties could settle the big stuff for themselves? I put the clients back together without their lawyers. The lawyers could work on drafting an MOU reflecting the modest agreements that had been made. I sat with the lawyers for a while.
The door was ajar, but when I looked in, the couple was in animated conversation. This was such a change from the glum expressions that greeted me when I arrived. I had not seen the mother smile all morning, and now she was radiant. He was responding, and for the first time I could easily see how they had been attracted to each other.
It was poignant. Even though they were about to divorce, this couple had touched each other again, and had opened their hearts. Attitudes were shifting, as was the energy in the conflict. With only the most basic help from their mediator, they were transcending the deeper issues and perhaps learning some of the more meaningful lessons concealed within their conflict.
There is a time and place for the mediator to be humble. I ferried back the couple’s agreements to the lawyers who were at their computers drafting legalese for the court. A trickle became a flood, and I brought the couple in to dictate the parenting plan and separation agreement.
I have made this move in a few other cases, but it is a tricky call to get right. I need to get better at this, because it is wonderful to behold when people come to their heartfelt senses.