Category: Services

Listening to reach agreement

When we are in conflict with another it can be difficult, if not impossible to really listen to what the other person is saying. And really, why should we bother listening when we clearly disagree? Yet, we may be making assumptions about what is being said because we are defensive, which can escalate the conflict further. If we are ever going to make progress and reach agreement, we have to listen.  Here are three quick tips which can help.

Access calm

The first step is to calm ourselves. This is really important because until we are calm and centered, not only can’t we hear the other person, it is very difficult to articulate what it is that we want and need. You could ask to take a break, count to 10 (or 20 or 30…), breath deeply a couple of times, think of your happy place, etc. Whatever you do that soothes you, DO IT!

Pretend you’re a reporter

In conflict with someone we know, it is easy to believe we know what they’re going to say before they say it. This often angers the other person which ratchets up the conflict. Instead, tap into your curiosity. Ask open-ended questions (who, what, why, when, where) in a neutral tone of voice. Listen deeply for the interests and needs this person is expressing and those things you may not have heard before. After all, listening doesn’t mean you agree, you’re just collecting information.

Clarify what you’ve heard

Repeat back to the person you are listening to what you’ve hear. Saying something like, “Let me see if I got what you’re say…” makes it clear that you are seeking to understand. Again, understanding does not equal agreement, but the person speaking is going to be a lot more likely to hear what you have to say if she or he thinks you understand them.

When it’s too tough to talk directly with one another, a mediator can help. Having someone who is trained to facilitate conversations without choosing sides can increase the chances you will be able to hear one another and make progress. If you’re having a hard time with a specific person or a theme has emerged in your conflicts, a conflict coach can help. Having someone support you in your efforts to better deal with conflict can help you try new approaches and offer tips on how to have more successful results.

Divorce Mediation or Collaborative Law ?

question mark

As a Divorce Mediator and Collaborative Law Attorney I am often asked what is the difference between mediation and collaborative law? And then I am asked “which process is going to be better for me?” The answer is not one-size- fits all. There are many factors to take into consideration. Each participant in the process has different needs, and couples have different needs and communication styles. I find the following chart useful to describe the both processes and how they differ. It is most important to speak with a professional divorce mediator and a collaborative law attorney to get your questions answered and to assist you in choosing with process best meets your needs. There are many many mediators out there that can help resolve your family law mediation whether it involves divorce settlement or some other issue to be resolved.

What is the difference between mediation and collaborative law?



-Husband, Wife, Mediator.

-Parties can be referred to professionals outside of the process to assist with particular issues such as financial advice, mental health support or evaluations.


-Husband, Wife, Husband’s Lawyer, Wife’s Lawyer meet together at “4-way” conferences.

-May also have Child specialist, Process Facilitator, Financial specialist, coach for either party or other professional to assist.


-Determined by number of sessions and complexity of issues.

-Generally less expensive than Collaborative because the participants pay for one Mediator.

-Usually less expensive than litigation. The participants have more control over time and costs.

-Determined by number of meetings, number of professionals involved, and complexity of issues.

-Generally more expensive than mediation because two attorneys are present at every meeting and the additional professionals are paid for attendance at meetings as well.

-Usually less expensive than litigation because it is more efficient and the parties have control over time and costs.


-Participants may hire an attorney to represent them for advice during the mediation, or after the mediation to review the agreement.

-An attorney is hired to complete the legal paperwork necessary to complete the process.

-Each party has their own attorney present throughout the collaborative process.

-All meetings are “4-way” conferences with both parties and their attorneys present.

-The attorney’s complete the legal paperwork necessary to complete the process.

How do I decide what process is best for me?
There are many factors that impact which process is best for an individual. You should analyze your ability and your spouse’s (other participant’s) ability to negotiate honestly and openly. You should assess your need to have an alpharetta divorce lawyer present with you at the negotiation table, your ability to communicate your needs and wants and to advocate for yourself, and the funds available for the divorce/separation process.

ALWAYS take the time to meet with a mediator and a collaborative attorney to discuss your questions about process and to get assistance choosing the process that is best for you.

[author_info]Julie V Mersereau, Esq. is an experienced Divorce Mediator and Collaborative Family Law Attorney- Contact info: [email protected]; 585-377-5487[/author_info]

If I don’t trust my spouse, how can I mediate?

Erasing Fear

Mediation requires that parties are willing to make a good faith effort to negotiate an agreement which both believe to be fair. It can sometimes be hard to imagine how you can have any faith in a process when you have no faith in the party you need to negotiate with.

Yet, people who have very little trust and even those who hate each other negotiate agreements every day. How do they do it? By focusing on the outcome they hope to achieve.

In divorce mediation, most people have the important goal of minimizing the impact of the divorce on their children. Many also hope to come to a financial agreement that ensures everyone, especially their children, will be alright. Most want to end up with a fair amount of the marital assets and liabilities. With these goals in mind, no matter how emotionally difficult it might become, with the assistance of a skilled mediator most people can arrive at agreement.

Distrust is sometimes simply because one or the other party has not been involved in the day-to-day finances of the marriage. In mediation, parties must agree to provide all financial information. The mediator helps to facilitate the conversation and ensure all documentation is gathered so that both parties can satisfy any questions or concerns they may have. If either party is unwilling to do so, mediation is terminated.

If you do not trust your spouse because you are afraid he or she is going to harm you or your children, you should trust your own instincts and ensure your own safety. If you are in immediate danger, you should call 911. You can find resources to assist you with housing, counseling, and legal services by calling Alternatives for Battered Women, which offers services to both women and men, at 585-232-7353.