Reality check: Wedding Crashers hits, misses on mediation


Wedding Crashers was a huge hit and a great movie. It even inspired its own bill after it was released.

The movie starts off with funnymen Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn leading a round of divorce mediation. Like most of the movie, the scene is hilarious but unfortunately, it is the only experience or exposure some people have to divorce mediation.

Like most things in Hollywood, Owen and Vince got some things right and missed on a few other things. A quick look at each:

What Wedding Crashers got right:

  • The movie opens with emotional accusations and the parties questioning each other’s parenting styles and at least one party feeling underappreciated.  This is a common occurrence when marriages end.
  • Vince tells one of the attorneys that, “The bad idea would be to let your client walk out of here and drag this thing out another year, wasting more time and wasting more money.” If the parties ended mediation, they would likely be forced to settle the matter through litigation, which would cost more money and take much longer to resolve.
  • Owen reminds the parties of the success they’ve already had in mediation. Momentum is a valuable asset in mediation and it can be helpful to build off past successes to keep dialog moving forward to future successes.
  • Bands are like pizza, good no matter if there’s music in the air.
  • The parties bring up things in their past, such as the man sleeping with strippers. By settling in mediation, he is able to ensure that part of his life is not discussed in open court where there will be a record and anyone is free to listen.
  • The parties are able to discuss things and say things to each other that they wouldn’t be able to in court. This can help lead them to closure as their relationship ends.
  • The parties reached their own solution. This is the biggest advantage to mediation. The parties are free to reach almost any agreement they want and that agreement may not be the same that a court would reach in the same situation. This gives the parties control of the process and ownership of the outcome, which tends to lead to a higher percentage of compliance than court orders.

What Wedding Crashers got wrong:

  • The parties had their lawyers in the mediation room. This is uncommon for most mediators. It works better when it’s just the parties negotiating. After the parties have reached an agreement, they are free to seek the advice of their legal counsel before signing off on it.
  • One lawyer calls mediation a “bad idea.” Many lawyers like mediation because it saves them time and it saves their clients money. In return, they can wrap up cases faster, avoid a long drawn out case themselves and their client tells their friends that he/she uses mediation to keep costs low, which can lead to new clients for that lawyer. Not all lawyers like mediation or think it’s the best for every situation, but generally a lot of lawyers favor it.
  • Though mediation is a time where parties can discuss things they would not be able to say in court, the mediators let the parties bicker too much and for too long to likely be productive in a real session. A good mediator should keep the parties discussing the future and moving forward and not let the parties continue to bring up the past or talk down to each other.
  • Owen makes a suggestion on how to split the airline miles. It’s important that the parties make suggestions to end their conflict and that the mediator facilitates that discussion until the parties seek their opinion and some mediators may refuse to offer one at that point. Others might make a suggestion but it’s not typically the first move when dealing with a new issue.

 

 Facts on Mediation

Divorce Mediation
Source: TopCounselingSchools.org