Our guest post today is by Michael Hiller, a Houston attorney and mediator, who writes about some unique aspects of marital mediation in Texas.
Marital Mediation is a relatively new way to help couples stay married. It is not designed to replace marriage therapy or counseling. In fact, marital mediation is frequently done by therapists. It is also done by attorneys. Marital mediation can be done by a lawyer AND a therapist (co-mediation). Across the country a variety of approaches are evolving. In this blog I want to introduce marital mediation to the Houston, TX area where I practice family law, and to everyone else reading this blog who may be new to marital mediation. Most clients know that mediation involves a person “in the middle” who helps parties come to an agreement. Throughout the country, divorce mediators tend to meet with clients without lawyers, for about 2 hours each session (Texas mediation is usually different, but it’s always different in Texas). It is the model where each session is about 2 hours that suits the Marital Mediation process well. But all you Texas purists, don’t worry, I plan to make Texas marital mediation both different and bigger. As everyone knows, things are not just different, but bigger in Texas.
The following describes what goes on in marital mediation. First we explain the Marital Mediation Process. I explain my role as a “participant-observer” (neutral third party) and that we listen to the couple, help them communicate, assist them in creating an agreement (whether written or oral) that may resolve their issues in conflict. The mediators then listen to their “Presenting Problem”, giving each client an opportunity to say what he or she wants to discuss. The Marital Mediator also observes the couple’s communication style. Simultaneously, the mediator seeks issues that can be mediated: what is the conflict? Then comes teaching, and the modeling of communication and conflict management. The conflict has not been managed well and there are poor communication skills. The Marital Mediator can “normalize” the couple’s skills and give feedback. BOTH are right: each spouse acknowledges the other, each partner sees things a certain way the other considers wrong. Once the Marital Mediator begins to help the couple communicate and manage conflict better, agreements can be reached, if only on minor issues at first. Ultimately, many couples create a written post nuptial or marital agreement. But oral agreements may also help. In Texas, post-nuptials are enforceable, if only on certain issues.
Stay tuned for more from Michael Hiller, our expert in Texas marital mediation. His upcoming article will be the “Texas Twist” – “Mental Toughness Marital Mediation”.