The Fear Factor: A Pary’s Motivation to Settle in Mediation


Proponents of Florida divorce mediation label mediation as a cooperative approach to end a dispute. Yet bargaining over scarce marital resources is fundamentally competitive and requires the mediator to use clever negotiation tactics in order to yield a successful resolution. The mediator’s role is to reduce obstacles to communication, assist in the identification of issues and exploration of alternatives, and to otherwise facilitate voluntary agreements to resolve the dispute. A clever mediator will use the fear factor as a secret weapon to reach an agreement between two parties.

The fear factor exists when parties in a Florida divorce feel the force of the looming great unknown called their future. Everything has been turned upside-down for some of these families. They are concerned about the following issues:

Where are the children going to live and for what days / times of the week?

Who will be awarded the house in a Florida divorce?

How are the children going to handle the issues and aftermath of a Florida divorce?

How are the parties going to handle the financial responsibilities of two households?

Layer on top of all of these fears the big one: What is their spouse going to do? Are they going to fight for custody, exhaust the savings account, run up the charge cards, or take his/her superior income and leave the other financially unstable?

The mediator can use the fear factor as a motivating force when negotiating between the two parties. Even though intense anger and hurt may lurk in the room, when skillfully managed, a mediator can find out what each party needs, is worry about, and is looking for. Thus, the mediator can use the fear factor to determine what is most important to each party and use that knowledge to succeed in negotiation. For more information on mediation, see the Florida Family Law Rules of Procedure.

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