Aug 2011 11

I’ve had so many friends ask me divorce advice that I finally started compiling my best tips. Well, they must be pretty good tips because they made the Huffington Post’s headline today!

May 2011 31

I’ve been a full time mediator since 2000, and I find I’ve always got something new to learn.  Clients never stop surprising me.

Just when I think I know it all, something happens and I realize that I actually know a lot less than I thought I did.  Let’s face it, I really only knew everything when I was 16 years old. It’s been all downhill from there, LOL.  Part of the wisdom of getting older is realizing exactly how little you know and how much you still have to learn.

So one day we had clients come in and they were really at odds.  Every single issue was an impasse, a fight, or worse.

I’m using every mediation skill, technique and intervention that I can think of. I’m even making a few of them up.  When clients mediate, at least at our office, they expect us to be pretty pro-active, making suggestions, moving the discussion along, and keeping things productive.

But nothing is working.

I wasn’t blaming myself. These folks had been in conflict a long, long time.  To hear their stories, you’d think they were taking about 2 different cases.  I was really working hard.  Not every mediation works out. I wasn’t going to go down without my best efforts, but sometimes if you’re working harder to settle the case than the clients are, maybe it’s time to step back.

So I stepped back.

I was really at a loss. So I asked for help. “What do you think would work?” I said.

Not really expecting a productive answer, I wracked my brain to figure out what to do next.  Just then, the husband made a brilliant suggestion.  He came up with a totally unique way of looking at things and what he suggested, although a little out of the ordinary, would probably work perfectly for them.

And before I could say a word, the wife said, “That’s a great idea!”

I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears.

When was the last time these folks had said a kind word to each other? When was the last time they’d problem-solved instead of arguing? If the first 90 minutes in our office was any indication, it had be quite some time.

Yet at the 90 minute mark, with a tiny prompt, suddenly a solution sounded more appealing than staying in the conflict.

The other 20 agenda items fell into place like dominoes, quickly, one after the other.  Once that big issue had been resolved, all of the other things either resolved or became unimportant.

People settle when they are ready to settle.

As much as mediators may think they (we) do the hard work, it’s really the clients who are pulling the weight.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of 2 books, Your Divorce Advisor and Making Divorce Work. Her full time mediation practice, Peace Talks,  is in Los Angeles.

May 2011 24

Project Vic: This is yet another in an ongoing series of videos where I blog about my attempts to rebuild my relationship with my 82 year old father.  As a mediator, isn’t it important that I walk my talk?  It’s one thing to be a calm, rational mediator when you’re with clients trying to resolve  a problem that doesn’t involved you, and quite another to apply those skills at home with your own family.

I’m going to update Project Vic as long as the videos last. This one is from early December 2010,  right after the big Thanksgiving blow up, and before I saw my dad January 27-30, 2011 for his wedding and my book signing.  Stay tuned, as he was a guest blogger!  AND, things got a lot more interesting!  I’ll post his take on the situation soon.

Truth really IS stranger than fiction.

So stay tuned, and wish me luck!

I really love being a lawyer now that I don’t practice traditional law anymore (just mediation).  I love my work as a mediator, and I love our clients. They work so hard to do the right thing.

This is contrasted by the efforts of my colleagues  (other lawyers).  I spend a LOT of my time protecting my clients from my colleagues.  And my dad is no exception.

So I find out his beloved estate planning lawyer has made yet another mistake on his trust.  I am not an estate planning lawyer, so I did some research and found the answers his attorney missed.


But my dad loves this attorney. There is nothing I can say that will influence the lawyer’s Svengali-like hold on my dad.  And I just end up looking like the greedy kid trying to get in the way.

Any ideas? Has anybody out there been able to handle a situation like this in a productive way?  I send my dad the information, he doesn’t read it.  His lawyer works part time, so nobody can ever get ahold of the lawyer. Time is of the essence–this wedding is supposed to happen in 6 weeks! But the lawyer isn’t returning calls and doesn’t seem to know how to use e-mail.  Impossible!

So frustrating.  But there’s nothing like a little Dinah’s Fried Chicken coffee shop food and a serving of their $3.95 a glass wine. If that won’t get you through a rough day, nothing will. I swear I am going to start dotting the “i” in my name with a chicken leg, just like in the Dinah’s logo.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation  on our video blog and read Diana’s divorce blogs on the Huffington Post

May 2011 24

Forrest “Woody” Mosten is a master mediator and, I’m convinced, one of the top mediation trainers in the world.  He is really at his best when he is teaching and training. His passion for both really shine through.

Woody casts a wide net with his mediation training, and he teaches and speaks at conferences all over the world.

In this short tour of his office, he talks about a training he did in Germany for mediators from all over Europe, and all over the world.

I go to a LOT of mediation trainings and conferences, and occasionally I even train mediators myself.  It’s never a dull moment when Woody Mosten is presenting, and he always has challenging and thought provoking ideas. You can check his schedule here: Mosten Mediation.

Speaking of challenging and thought provoking ideas, my other favorite trainer and speaker is Robert Benjamin.

I get a lot of requests for “what’s the best training?”  If you’re in Los Angeles, here’s what I suggest:

40 Hour Mediation Courses

Forrest “Woody” Mosten’s course is the gold standard.  But it’s not cheap ($1500).  But I’ve been to mediation courses all over the country and his is the best.

His Study Groups are excellent.  They meet about once a month and cost $75 (CEU credit is given).   I attend myself when I’m available. Highly recommended.

Loyola Law School offers a mediation training course for $675.  I have not taken it but it’s taught by Mary Culbert, a very experienced teacher and mediator.

Lee Jay Berman offers training through his American Institute of Mediation. I suspect his classes are very good—he has certainly been at it long enough.

Pepperdine offers a range of highly regarded classes:   The conferences aren’t a 40 hour training, but I suspect that you’d learn enough to be able to get started mediating.

There’s also a certificate program at Cal State Northridge:  I haven’t heard of anyone who’s been through it, but I’d be curious to see what they’re up to.

Peace Talks has a 25 hour course on DVD (condensed from a 40 hour course).  It’s great for what it is, and I’m the teacher, but given that we’re in Los Angeles, you really ought to get an in person training so you can get the hands-on experience. It would be different if you were in some remote rural area that offered no training.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

May 2011 20

What makes a marriage successful?  I do a lot of research and reading in this area. My thought is that if I can figure out what makes marriages work, I might gain some insight into what makes them NOT work, and if I know what works and what doesn’t, maybe I can better help my clients in mediation. After all, people who mediate have a lot of courage to go through the mediation process. It’s pretty uncomfortable talking to mediators (strangers, really) about everything you care anything about in the entire world.  As mediators, we never forget that.

Anyway, I am always interested to hear what others have to say about this, so I always carry my Flip video camera with me.  I know, I know, I could use my Droid, but I feel like my Flip is my friend and it’s so easy to use.

So when I can find someone willing to talk on camera about what works in a marriage, I’m all ears.

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