Mediation is a confidential, brief intervention, intended to assist parties in generating mutually beneficial agreements to address a specific problem, objective, decision, or conflict. The goal is to improve the current situation and prevent future problems.
Most mediations typically involve the two parties who are ultimately responsible for the situation. It may be appropriate to involve others such as children/teens, new partners of divorced parents, extended family members, etc. Who is involved, and in what capacity, will be established via negotiation between the individual requesting services and the mediator.
If no agreements are made in mediation, then all mediation communications and materials remain confidential and cannot be used in court. Mediation is not a tool to be utilized against the other party. It is a tool to help create resolutions that work for everyone involved. All mediation communications, except for confirmed agreements, are confidential and mediators cannot be compelled to testify in court.
If agreements are made in a mediation, a summary document will be compiled and sent to parties to sign the document to formalize their agreements. If coparents are in full agreement about the components of an initial parenting plan or a modification/update to an existing parenting plan, then at the conclusion of the mediation, they will be provided with a full parenting plan or updated parenting plan and asked to sign the document confirming their agreement.
Most services are conducted remotely via teletherapy. Session format depends upon where clients are located, current levels of hostility between clients, and general safety considerations.
A Traditional Mediation is essentially a brief intervention where the mediator hosts one or more business style meetings between two parties who realize they are in disagreement about one or more specific issues and want to attempt to achieve resolution on those matters. Basic mediations involve interest based negotiations rather than positions based negotiations. This means that the mediator assists parties in focusing on honoring common goals and achieving a win-win outcome instead of each party being stuck on what they want, insisting that it goes their way, without regard to other considerations or potential negative impacts on others. Mediators facilitate awareness building, perspective taking, and clarification of misunderstandings in order for conflict resolution, problem solving, and decision making to occur. Mediators then help parties with goal setting, specifying action steps, establishing timelines, and scheduling accountability check-ins--thereby increasing the likelihood of parties achieving doable and durable agreements that result in goal attainment.
A Transformative Mediation utilizes the process of mediation as an opportunity to assist parties in transforming their relationship with each other in the interest of setting up a collaborative working relationship or a more peaceful household. By spending a bit of time and effort on becoming allies instead of adversaries, parties are more likely to reach more durable agreements and spend less time and energy engaging in conflict.
Two alternative mediation styles that have proven to be promising in radically transforming both entrenched conflicts and the dynamics between disputants are Narrative Mediation and Solution Focused Mediation.
A Narrative Mediation focuses on the power of story and how it shapes conflict. It involves examining the stories the parties are telling themselves and others about the conflict and who they are in relation to that conflict and who they are in relation to the other people involved in that conflict. Parties gain an understanding of the origins of their stories and perhaps an awareness of biases and assumptions that are distorting the conflict and sabotaging their relationship. Stories can be told in many ways--an inflammatory version of a story fans the flames while a story that recognizes shared humanity and common ground can put out the fire. The mediator assists participants in creating more balanced, helpful, and comprehensive versions of their stories that preserve the integrity of everyone involved, assisting parties in approaching both the conflict and other other party in new, more helpful ways, which opens up new possibilities and motivation to move forward in a ways that work for everyone involved. The goal is to build stories that support courses of action based on understanding, respect, and collaboration instead of individualism, disrespect and closed-mindedness.
A Solution Focused Mediation is the application of Solution Focused Brief Therapy to the mediation setting. The mediator will assist parties in taking their focus off of the problem/conflict and onto their historical successes, current resources, and shared hopes in effort to recognize their strengths and abilities to build a preferred future that works for both parties.
The mediator works to build awareness as to how assumptions, misunderstandings, bias, and heightened emotions interfere with connection, consideration, appreciation, respect and reconciliation.
A Transformative Mediation involves both Narrative and Solution Focused approaches and includes pre-mediation conflict coaching, educational sessions, multiple mediation sessions dedicated to improving the relationship itself prior to mediating on any problem, goal, decision, or conflict that brought clients to mediation, followed by post-mediation coaching sessions for ongoing support. The goal is for parties to become better able to work together to handle future concerns, problems and conflicts more efficiently, effectively and independently.
Initial Parenting Plan Mediation
Many courts require parents to complete mediation prior to filing in court for divorce or separation. Parents can utilize mediation to confirm agreements and attempt to come to consensus on disputed components. All typical sections in a basic parenting plan template will be addressed allowing parents the opportunity to discuss the issues, confirm agreement to specific clauses, and explore options to disputed issues that prevent full agreement to creating a finalized parenting plan.
Existing Parenting Plan Mediation for Potential Modification/Updates
Many courts require parents to complete mediation prior to filing for a modification in court. This type of mediation is for Co-Parents who already have Parenting Plan and one or both parents would like to formalize one or more changes. Mediations for potential modifications are great ways for parents to discuss their concerns, generate multiple options or courses of action, and work toward an outcome that works for everyone involved.
Roommates (including flatmates, housemates or cohabitants) who are planning on moving in together or who have just starting living together could benefit from mediating in attempt to prevent future problems that typically arise in sharing the same space. Financial complications frequently arise regarding rent, utilities, furnishings, supplies, repairs, cleaning fees, deposits, etc. Inappropriate or inconsiderate use of common areas and personal belongings can easily cause hard feelings and damage relationships. Household roles and responsibilities need to be worked out so everyone can feel good about living there. Consequences for failing to follow through or uphold agreements need to be worked out ahead of time so there is accountability decreasing the likelihood that roommates will take advantage of each other.
Couple's Mediation is becoming more popular as couples see the utility of having a neutral third party assist them in addressing specific problems or concerns, create a repair plan, and provide an avenue for accountability. Action items, timelines, and consequences for failing to follow through or uphold agreements are worked out as part of the process. We help couples build awareness of issues and perspectives, get more on the same page, find a course of action that works for everyone, and provide organization and follow-up. Couples who are stuck on problems or positions benefit from a strengths based, solution focused approach so they can work together rather than against each other, building appreciation for each other as their confidence in each other increases.
Child Involved Mediation
Child Involved Mediation is intended to provide the children of divorced or separated parents a voice in improving their relationship with both parents and their experience at both households. The children/teens play an active part of this mediation structure at the center of their family system, not in the middle of their parents' conflict. It is invaluable in ensuring that the child's perspective and experience are understood, and that every effort is taken to meet their needs by addressing and neutralizing safety issues and maximizing their resources through their ongoing connections to both parents. Rather than children being asked which house/parent they want to live with (this has been found to be detrimental to a child's wellbeing), it is assumed that children will have ongoing relationships with both parents, and therefore, the focus is on how to make those relationships as safe and healthy as possible at all times---during divorce / separation, while setting up the co-parenting arrangement, and while carrying out co-parenting agreements until the children are legal adults.
Child Family System Mediation
Child Family System Mediations are intended for larger family systems to have an avenue for both parents and members of their new households (step-parents and step-siblings) to get more on the same page for the benefit of everyone involved, especially the children of divorced or separated parents. The children/teens play an active part of this mediation structure at the center of their family system, not in the middle of their parents' conflict. This type of intervention is invaluable in assisting everyone involved in a family ecosystem and others providing critical support to one or more members of a family to be involved in addressing concerns and solution building to improve the situation and prevent future problems. A mediator, as a neutral third party, can assist in addressing specific problems or concerns, creating a repair plan, and providing an avenue for growth and accountability. Action items, timelines, and consequences for failing to follow through or uphold agreements are worked out as part of the process.
Collaborative Mediation for Divorce/Separation
A Collaborative Mediation is initiated by divorcing parents who are desiring a more time efficient, cost effective divorce option that upholds the collaborative principles of transparency, self-determination, use of neutrals, interest based negotiation, maximizing privacy, and avoiding litigation. Parents work with a collaboratively trained mediator and only utilize the assistance of other professionals at the discretion of the parents and only to the extent necessary to achieve a specific goal. So rather than each parent securing their own attorney, parents secure unbundled legal services from a neutral attorney to provide legal input on a specific option or agreement. Other professionals who may be involved to a minimal extent may include paralegals, relators, vocational coaches, accountants, estate planners, financial mediators, psychologists, counselors, business evaluators, parenting experts, child specialists, custody evaluators, etc.