Mediators Relating In Divorce Mediation

By Irving H. Zaroff, JD LMFT and Dana Schutz, MA LMFT

What motivates someone to become a divorce mediator? Why a team mediation? Recently we found ourselves examining our own part in divorce mediation as a mediation team.

Why become a mediator?

The Team

Dana Shchutz- I have been practicing Marriage and Family Therapy in Santa Clarita for nearly 20 years. I was a Child Development and Psychology major in college, and have been involved with families my entire professional career. One of the most challenging, but significant, aspects of practicing therapy involves working with families that have gone through the divorce process and are dealing with the hostile aftermath.

Unfortunately many families are impacted for years following a nasty divorce. Through years of working with families both pre and post divorce, I have seen the experience of a family collapse through the eyes of each spouse and the children. Too many times I think the problematic aftermath flows from the anger, hostility and fear that was ignited in the divorcing process.

Having experienced the mediation process personally, I discovered there is a better way. Getting help from sources focused on the welfare of ALL the parties provides a positive learning experience and an adult resolution of very sensitive, but necessary, arrangements. It’s that opportunity to make a positive impact on families that attracted me to mediation practice.

Irv Zaroff- I have a somewhat diverse background. Originally starting out to practice accounting, I found myself accepting an offer to attend law school. After a brief couple of years practicing law, I jumped at an opportunity to become a business entrepreneur.

As co-founder and executive-vice president of a medium sized company, I had the good fortune to run businesses in the apparel industry (Ditto Jeans); the laundry business (Clean King Laundries); electronics (Janeil Satellite Systems); and computers (Positive Computers). Mid-life crazies led me to explore a career as a Family Therapist which has been my primary focus for the last 18 years.

Some years ago, I was asked to mediate a divorce. I finally found something that was entirely fulfilling. Unlike therapy, divorce mediation has a clear beginning, middle and end. Unlike law, I don’t focus on “what can I get for my client.” I can focus on what will work for this family. What could be better?

Why team mediation?

Aside from the fact that four heads are better than three, we have the opportunity to provide diverse experience, whether through gender differences or life experiences. We also get to model helpful communication – even the mediators see things differently – but the resolutions are peaceful.

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