Bringing the Children Along

I just wrapped up a mediation with a couple who is divorcing. They were committed to the process, thoughtful about their choices, measured in their tone, and, above all, concerned about their children’s futures.

When I met to compile their “filing packet,” which would be mailed to the Probate and Family Court to be scheduled for a Zoom hearing, I did so taking all Covid19 precautions. While I’d met with this couple in person for the bulk of their sessions, I, too, have shifted to online mediation sessions. But to sign papers and have them notarized, I really needed to be face-to-face, or mask-to-mask as the current “normal” requires.

Outside on a lovely New England afternoon, I waited their arrival. And, to my surprise, four people stepped out of their car. Our clients had brought their two children.In mediating divorces, children are not present. The goal of a divorce mediation is to come to terms on a contract, i.e., the contract for the dissolution of a marriage. The law presumes that anyone under 18 years old lacks the capacity to enter into a contract.

(Note: Chore contracts, homework contracts, and practice-piano contracts are established all the time between parents and their children. Don’t let on that you know that these contracts are invalid based on the legal presumption of incapacity of minors. That could sabotage the harmony that can come from “contracts” like these.)

So, while children aren’t legally necessary to participate in a divorce, it is irrefutable that they are right “there” in each and every mediation session. They are the bond that gets couples to compromise; they are the vehicle to keep the couple focused on the most important piece of the divorce puzzle.

Seeing my clients’ children, from a socially-distanced vantage, warmed my heart and reminded me that when done well, parents can be honest with their children and even let them have a glimpse of what Mommy and Daddy were doing all those times they said, “We’re going to mediation.”

If you think mediation is right for you and your children, please call Jenna Brownson, Esq. at 978.760.0482.


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