I recently spent the morning with a woman in mediation. This was her second go-round, as she had been involved in a hotly contested custody case and nasty divorce. She had been bullied by her husband, and her needs were not addressed by her previous lawyer. By the time she reached me, she was sick of being run over and tired of being ignored. As we discussed each aspect of her divorce, I quickly realized that she had been towing the line for two years, acceding to ridiculous demands and demeaning behavior by her ex, while at the same time being financially ruined by his haphazard approach to payment of child support, medical bills, and the mortgage.
I was fed up myself just by listening to her story. Some of the things she needed help with were beyond my control post-divorce. Some of the wrongs I could rectify immediately. Part of the bigger problem was that my client was stuck on what an asshole her ex-husband was and is. Yes! I agreed. His rude, hateful, and offensive behavior was inexcusable. But what are the chances we are going to stop him from being him? Her voice was lost in complaining about him. I had to redirect her. After agreeing with her—let’s face it, he’s an ass—I said “let’s move on to what you need and what I can get you.”
One example that we worked through is that he inconsistently picked up their child or would demand that she bring the child to him. She often drove an hour to comply with the visitation. No! No! No! The order had not called for her to accommodate his deviations in schedule. We successfully set up a place to meet close to her home for exchange at an appointed time. I advised both her and opposing counsel that if he was not there, she would not be waiting for him (beyond reason), and that she would not be driving anywhere to meet him. Simple enough, right?
It was once we began to focus on what she needed to make her life with her daughter easier that her situation started to improve. Focusing on all the things she did not like did not bring us closer to a solution until we began to flip it. Sometimes what you do not want can be melded into a workable design once you know what you want. You, as a client, have to speak up. I had met with this particular client a couple of times before our mediation, but had not been informed of what needed to change. She spent her appointments describing her ex-husband’s character flaws and never articulated the real problems this created. Her voice was lost in his behavior.
I do not know about the last attorney she worked with, but it is possible that the crucial elements of what she needed were missed by counsel and by the court. Once the case is over, many things cannot be modified or addressed. Do not let this happen to you! Sit down with your attorney and make sure you know what is going to happen and what you need to happen. Sometimes things will not go as you want, but if you never ask, you will never get what you want.
Turn your focus to WHAT you want! Use your strong voice to get it!