As my husband gears up for Superbowl LV, I have the “privilege” of a constant soundtrack of sports talk shows, live games and SportsCenter in my home/office. So, by osmosis, I’ve picked up a few terms that seem appropriate in a divorce scenario.
Coaches have game plans the teams review and generally follow before and during a football game. Similarly, in divorce, a couple (or if they are litigating, their attorneys) have a plan for reaching a desired outcome. In football and in litigation, one side usually is the winner, which means the other side is usually the loser. No one wants to be the loser in football or divorce.
Fortunately, in mediation, the goal is to strive for a win-win solution, which to me seems like a much better long-term result.
In football, the referee makes sure the rules of the game are followed and makes final, often controversial or actually wrong, decisions on disputed plays that the players (and fans) must live with. Just like a Judge in divorce litigation makes final, often controversial and sometimes just plain wrong decisions on how a family is going to divide their financials and what will happen with the kids. Often, the Judge doesn’t even know the family and only has a few hours to make a ruling that has a life altering, long term impact on a family that may not even be in their best interest.
Mercifully, a divorce mediator does not decide a couple’s fate. The mediator helps the couple reach agreement on how best to move forward given their particular financial circumstances, what is best for their kids and honoring the marriage and the contributions both made to it.
Offense and Defense
This set up in football pits players against each other – just like opposing sides in litigation. There is strategy for both options and the goal is to use offense to advance one side and defense to oppose the other side. Starting to see similarities in divorce with lawyers?
On the other hand, in divorce mediation, no one has to strategize a good offense or defense as the process is designed to collaborate together on a “game plan” to make sure the final agreements are best for everyone given the situation.
OK, I needed some help on this one, but apparently there is more to the game than just offense and defense – there is the kicking game, which can bring other players on the field. In litigation, other players will likely cost more money and raise the conflict level of the proceedings, as they can include expert witnesses (e.g., business valuation, career, real estate, appraisers, retirement) which must be employed by each side and often present opposing opinions and evidence based on which side hired them.
In mediation, you can certainly have other team members (family or child coaches, financial neutrals, collaborative attorneys), but they usually are on the joint team with the couple. Those team members are there to provide expertise in assisting the couple in reaching decisions that a realistic, feasible, workable and seem fair to everyone.
So, when watching Superbowl LV this year, enjoy the competitiveness and rivalry of Kansas City and Tampa Bay (did I get the right?), but think about if you would want to be down on that field having your divorce play out like the game or if you’d rather move forward with a more peaceful, cooperative process and leave the tackling and bruising to the NFL players.