Mediation: Managing Parental Dishonesty
When a parent chooses to be a high-conflict litigator (and it is absolutely a choice), lying comes with the package. False allegations and other accusations, made up stories, embellishment, all of the dirty tactics come out of the high-conflict arsenal to keep you on the defensive and wrest child custody away from you. It’s all part of the ugly process that leaves you questioning your own sanity and whether or not you’re remembering things the way they actually happened. If you are truly not the high-conflict party, chances are quite strong that your recollection of reality is accurate.
When you voluntarily enter into mediation or are otherwise ordered to attempt mediation, there are several areas of importance that you must take with you to the mediation sessions. It’s normal to want to defend yourself against every false allegation that is tossed your way. However, spending too much time doing self-defense will take away from the mission of mediation. You will want to convey, in the fewest words possible, that your soon-to-be or already ex-partner is a controlling, high-conflict personality and that your desire is remain focused on the matters at hand. You are not at mediation to discuss and defend against alleged matters from the past.
We would also suggest that you create a bulleted list of false allegation that have been made against you in advance of the mediation sessions, perhaps with a very brief explanation and response to each. You will surprise both your ex-spouse and the mediator while at the same time disarming the liar present in the mediation session. You don’t want to go right in and present it to everyone. You’ll save it for when you recognize things getting out of control. You can stop the madness with this list. Ask for a pause in the barrage of false accusations. Give them each a copy and then try to get the session refocused on settling outstanding matters and get the mudslinging stopped. The list may not entirely stop him or her from dominating the discussion with irrelevant matters, but it will save the time that would normally be spent with them hurling the false allegations of child abuse or similar and practically eliminate your desire to verbalize your defense. It’s all there. It’s on the paper. It’s not relevant to mediation, let’s get down to trying to settle.
The dishonest, high-conflict parent will try to dominate the discussion with inappropriate and irrelevant discussion. It’s part of their desire to control everything, even in the aftermath of your divorce. Child custody is about the only thing left that they can attempt to control and make no mistake, it will drag on well into the future. The likelihood of mediation success with such a person is very low. However, in many places, it’s part of the process through which you must endure. Shining a spotlight on their controlling behaviors and need to live in the past while limiting your own discussion about those matters will continue to expose the dishonest parent for the problem party that they are. A good mediator will recognize this pattern rather quickly.
The longer the mediation efforts go on, the more opportunities that the high-conflict party will have to expose themselves. Stay calm. Always work to redirect the mediation session back to the matters needed to settle. Present yourself always as the reasonable party and let the liar reveal themselves to the mediator.