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conflict-resolutionI never thought I’d want to mediate matrimonial disputes. So much sturm und drang! All that pain, anger, resentment, and distrust! Of course, as a practitioner in the area of estate planning and administration, I had occasion to draft pre- and post-marital agreements, or to represent a party to one. But those couples were on good speaking terms. So, for the most part, it wasn’t difficult for them to agree on things.

When I began mediating custody and child support cases for the New York Peace Institute (formerly part of Safe Horizon), however, I realized two important things. First, it wasn’t my sturm und drang. I could acknowledge the emotions expressed by each member of the couple, even feel inwardly sympathetic, without having to experience those emotions myself. In fact, as a mediator, I needed to maintain distance in order to remain neutral and keep the conversation balanced. Second, in encouraging my pre- and post-nup clients to work most matters out for themselves, I already was following, albeit unwittingly, a major precept of mediation, which is to create a forum in which the participants can work things out for themselves.

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