By Christina L. Scott, J.D.
For most parties, the goal of participating in mediation is to resolve the conflict. I say “most” parties because there are some cases where parties show up simply to aggravate the other side, play games, stonewall, and many other things. For the most part though, parties want to settle their dispute.
One of the things needed to move toward resolution is the right environment. Particularly, in domestic cases, the “right environment” is created by keeping any additional sources of tension away from the mediation. These sources of tension are sometimes the new wife, the new husband, the boyfriend or girlfriend. Unfortunately, I’ve seen some mediation's sabotaged because of the presence of significant others, even if they are waiting in the lobby. If a party wishes to truly resolve the case, they must think about creating an environment in which the other side will be comfortable negotiating and working through the issues. If they know that the presence of a certain significant other will cause excessive anger and bad feelings to the opposing side, why bring them to the mediation? Why hinder a genuine chance to have the case resolved? This is especially true if the 3rd party is the “other woman” or “other man” who in their eyes, caused the dissolution of the marriage/relationship.
Not only can significant others cause discomfort and bad feelings but, in-laws, parents, and other relatives have the potential to do the same thing. Parties should ask themselves, “will the presence of this person hinder the resolution of my case in any way.” If the answer to this question is “yes”, the 3rd parties should think about not coming to the mediation. If a party is represented by counsel, they are in a good position to discuss this issue ahead of time with counsel and be advised accordingly.