How to Mediate with a Bully?

How to Mediate with a Bully?

One interesting correlation I’ve noticed is that the worse a divorce mediator is, the more he or she blogs. You’ll come across articles and videos by certain mediators that claim to tell you how to engage in a mediation when the other party is a bully. Let me save you the trouble of wasting your time on them by telling you this: don’t negotiate with people who have no intention of dealing fairly with you. Don’t. It’s not worth the effort and the risk.

You can stop watching now, if you like, but if you want more detail, here it is:

If you are accustomed to being bullied by your spouse physically, emotionally, and/or financially, then you know that anything your bully spouse does that pleases or benefits you is either due to dumb luck or because the momentary kindness is part of a long-term trap to be sprung down the road.

If anyone tells you to “make sure that your mediator has the background and personality to ensure that the playing field is level,” have a good laugh, and then realize that no mediator has this power.

If you are told that you “would be wise to work with advising counsel throughout the mediation process” thank, if you must, the sage who gave you such obvious advice and then ask that same genius how “working with advising counsel throughout the mediation process” magically changes a bully into a collaborative partner who thinks win-win.

If you are told to “come to mediation sessions armed [armed?] with knowledge of your rights and the law” ask how such firepower stops bullying. It doesn’t, it simply causes the bully to adjust tactics.

If you are told to “consider hiring a divorce coach or a therapist,” please, before you do that, write me a big check and include me in your will, sucker. Therapy or counseling may be very helpful to you personally, but it won’t change a bully into a BFF.

If you are told to “demand [yeah! Demand!] full financial disclosure” and if you expect that “demanding” anything of a bully will result in the desired outcome, you are not competent to engage in negotiations on your own behalf.

Of course, now I’m expected to get a somber look on my face and talk about “physical intimate partner violence,” which we used to call domestic violence. Good grief. If you fear for your life or safety when dealing with your spouse in negotiations, you’re not dealing with a bully, you’re dealing with a criminal, and you can’t negotiate with criminals because by definition they break the rules and they don’t act in good faith. Duh. Look, if your spouse would rather die (or that you die) than just divorce fairly and move on with life, your problems are way bigger than a “stressful” divorce. Sheesh, run for life.

Finally, if you are advised to “stand your ground,” and if it turns out you can pull that off, then you were never dealing with a bully in the first place. Bullies are bullies because of a power imbalance. If you can “stand your ground” against a so-called bully, you were dealing with an ass, and asses are not terribly rare in divorce settings. Go to mediation and duke it out, enjoy watching and participating as the sausage is being made, and know that your situation is not significantly different than anyone else’s hotly contested divorce.

Utah Family Law, LC | 801-466-9277

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