Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Young and the Restless: Did Mediation Work for Billy and Chloe?

Billy and Chloe are a young married couple on The Young and the Restless who have a child and who are going through a divorce. They decide to try mediation. The mediator, a Ms. Dalton, dresses in a power suit and works out of an impressive office furnished in thick, dark wood. Episodes which aired on August 26 and 27, 2009 reveal mediation as a positive option for Billy and Chloe who wish to divorce amicably. Toward the end, however, just as they've reached a full agreement and are set to sign the final paperwork, everything appears to fall apart. Through a series of frowns and pensive stares, all signs indicate that their efforts in mediation may be foiled by strong emotions and doubts about whether or not they're doing the right thing by splitting up.

A family member who watches the show told me about the role mediation was playing in Billy and Chloe's divorce and I immediately screened the relevant episodes online. They're quick; snapshots clipped between ever more powerful drama. You don't see much of the mediator who mostly appears in the background and says virtually nothing. Yet the very fact that mediation is playing a role in a daytime T.V. divorce, if even briefly, indicates an important turning point for the field of mediation. If daytime soaps are sending conflictual couples to mediation, then perhaps more and more couples will self-select mediation rather than have it forced upon them by a judge; mediation as a mutual choice being the most effective.

I could pick apart the ways in which The Young and the Restless got it wrong (mediation doesn't look like that!) but instead I choose to focus on what the show did right. Mediation is a viable option for couples, and if it can work for Billy and Chloe -- they ultimately signed the mediated agreement -- then that illustrates how well it can work for regular folks too.

Photo borrowed from www.soapoperadigest.com.

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