Saturday, 23 May 2015

[Today] Mediation helps divorcing parties focus on real needs

I read with interest the reports “Divorce made less bitter with new mediation process” (May 18) and “Amicable divorce options not popular” (May 19).
As a mediator, I affirm the direction taken by the courts and the Singapore Mediation Centre. A divorce should be settled as amicably as possible for the benefit of the children as well as everyone else involved.
While divorce is a legal and social issue, it must first be seen as a painfully emotional family matter.
Clients are protected by laws and rights in the division of matrimonial assets, and maintenance and custody matters, but the emotions involved in losing a life partner call for professional intervention to help the parties move forward, especially if children are involved.
I believe, and as clients have also informed me, that when emotional hurt is addressed in a therapeutic setting, clients stop putting a price tag on their pain.
They go into mediation more focused on their real needs, whether financial or emotional, instead of using the division of assets and custody to make up for their hurt.
An integrated counselling and mediation process takes the sting out of the battle, and both parties can allow each other to be co-parents. With good closure, co-parenting issues are better sorted out, and expectations aren’t projected on and enmeshed.
The centre I work in practises an integrated approach between mediation and counselling. Clients seeking divorce would speak with a trained mediator or counsellor, who would examine the relationship from a psychosocial perspective.
They are presented with options to see a counsellor to help them achieve insight into why their marriage has broken down, and how they feel about it.
There have been misconceptions about counselling in such a setting. But as counsellors and mediators, we are not in a place to persuade anyone to carry on with their marriage or reconcile. Counselling and mediation are client-centric; the clients decide on their course of action.
My clients who have worked out their separation and divorce mediation with the help of counselling have noted that they were more ready and objective. They are better able to move on amicably with their ex-spouse, both as individuals who are able to cope and as parents who would cooperate for their children’s interests.
I believe strongly in the institution of the family, but recognise that families are sometimes strained and unfortunately break up.
The pain of divorce, the loneliness of single parenting and associated issues must be mitigated by amicable settlements and closures that are done well, so that our generation will not give our children a legacy of pain they did not choose.