What disputes can be mediated? Here’s how Mediation can help in many different situations:
To get a divorce (with or without children) you have to get a Decree of Dissolution, signed by a judge. If there are children, the court requires a plan for their parenting, with a residential schedule. People can present the required court documents, if they’ve come to agreement on all issues, and the court will issue a Decree of Dissolution without the necessity of a trial. You can reach agreement on all the issues through mediation, with the help of a trained mediator.
Going through a divorce is difficult and stressful. Even the thought of taking personal issues to trial, let alone the reality of the litigation setting, makes it so much worse. Trained mediators at NMC work with both parties to resolve their issues in a calm, neutral, confidential setting. If there are children involved, the mediation experience paves the way for the cooperative environment necessary to continue as co-parents.
Parenting Plans/Residential Schedules
Trained mediators at NMC assist divorced, divorcing and never-married parents in working together to develop a child-centered parenting plan. Whether you need to create a new parenting plan, or update your current one, mediation provides a positive, cooperative atmosphere to resolve your issues and move forward, focused on your children.
Other family-related issues may not require any approval from the court. Mediation is not counseling, and is not a substitute for therapy, but at times there are issues that have families at impasse. Trained mediators can facilitate the discussions so that the issues can be resolved in a way that avoids escalation into estrangement among family members, or even involvement of law enforcement.
Everyone knows there are often communication issues between parents and their teenage children. When it’s not a matter of mental or emotional illness, but a case of “they never listen to me,” a mediation session, assisted by a trained mediator, can be the ideal place for everyone to listen to each other—and learn to listen better. Such sessions can help provide families with skills that will allow them to sit down at the kitchen table together in the future, without a mediator, and resolve issues that seemed like brick walls before.
Extended Family Mediation
Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, kids, parents . . . the bigger the family, the greater the chance of misunderstandings and quarrels. Do you know families in which, say, middle-aged sisters haven’t spoken in years? Still, they miss each other, and wish things were different. This is just a single example of a case where a session with a trained mediator can help.
Smoke from their barbecue choking you? Fence got moved onto your property? Barking dog? Loud music? Kids running through the flowerbeds? Tree limbs falling into your yard? Alley full of cars? All kinds of neighborhood disputes, ranging from perpetual annoyances to serious infringements on your rights, are appropriate topics for mediation. Trained mediators can help neighbors turn potential feuds and lawsuits into productive discussions—crafting resolutions that meet each other’s needs and help preserve friendly, peaceful, and cooperative relationships.
You thought you had a contract, but the other party isn’t living up to it—or they say that you’re not living up to it? Come to the table. A trained mediator can help you sort it out and resolve the issues, before it erupts into a lawsuit.
The pipes aren’t fixed? The rent’s not paid? The promised new carpet never happened? More residents in the unit than the lease allows? When either the tenant or the landlord is unhappy about something the other one did or didn’t do, litigation or formal eviction procedures are not the only way. In fact, an otherwise good relationship can be preserved, or a shaky one improved, by taking the problems to the mediation table, and letting a trained mediator help the parties talk it through to a resolution that works for both. Saves money, time and frazzled nerves, too!
The last thing we want is for the last years of our loved ones’ lives to be full of stress, conflict and hurt. And when they’re gone from us, what kind of honor do we do their memories if we fight with our siblings over how to distribute the family treasures? The courts are there for us if we can’t find another way—but there is another way: it is simple, informal, less expensive and more compassionate. The mediation table is a place where everyone involved can sit down to work things out.
Let’s say you are concerned children, knowing Elder Services is right, and Dad needs a guardian—but Dad doesn’t see it that way-you may have to file for guardianship (and decide who will be the guardian). You could just get ready for a trial—a public trial. Or you could bring all the interested persons to the mediation table—the guardian ad litem, all of the children, a care provider—often, even Dad, or at least a representative for him—and work through the issues in a confidential setting. When you bring the court a reasonable resolution (settlement) that complies with the law, all that’s left for the judge to do is to approve it.
Or maybe Mom died unexpectedly, and unfortunately, she left some unfinished business and debts, along with a big home full of things several of you (grown children in mourning) need to sort through. And she never got around to leaving that list saying where things should go. If you just can’t seem to agree, how do you decide who gets her wedding rings, her great grandmother’s china, or the clock in the hall, if more than one of you wants each thing? What do you do as tensions begin to mount, while you also have to figure out how to divide up the work of getting the business done and the debts paid, when there’s not enough cash to pay them? How do you decide, if you can’t agree, without adding resentment and distrust to the hurt of losing your mother? You could just get ready for a trial—a public trial-and spend what little cash is left sorting it all out. Or you could decide that this is when the family can come to the table with a trained mediator who will help you talk it all out in a calm, informal, dignified and confidential setting, concentrating on moving toward a resolution that will work for all of you.
Going to court is so expensive and time-consuming. What if you could nip disputes in the bud before they hit lawsuit stage? Even if you’ve already sued someone or they’ve sued you, what if you could avoid all the time, energy and expense—not to mention stress and frustration—of taking it all the way to trial? You can. That’s what mediation is for.
Consumer Issues: Is it about customer satisfaction? Maybe the buyer thinks the seller palmed off some defective merchandise, and the seller thinks the buyer just put it together wrong. Take it to mediation.
Business Partners: Maybe your partnership is ending. Maybe it needs to re-focus. Maybe it needs clarification. Whatever the issue, mediation is a respectful, confidential way to approach partnership challenges without litigation.
Workplace: Your otherwise stellar employee can’t open and close on time, and your other employees are complaining? Your boss blames you for diminishing business, but won’t listen when you offer ideas to increase business?
Business to Business: The new game store next door is too noisy and your mindful meditation classes are suffering? Your local supplier won’t ever deliver produce on time, and now your reputation with your customers is shot? The plowing company destroyed your sidewalk planters after the last snow?
Come to the table, if you’re both willing. A trained mediator can help you work through all the issues so you can be successful and your business relationships can be productive.
Churches, community centers, non-profits, schools, boards of directors, clubs, extended families, agencies, activist organizations, committees, task forces—whenever we join together, there are always conflicts that can pull us apart. Or, they can help us grow stronger, more united and better able to continue the good work we’re doing. When destructive conflict threatens to stop a hard-working, effective group in its tracks, inviting a qualified mediator, trained in group facilitation, to bring the group to the table—a BIG table—can be the starting point for growth in capacity and understanding. Capable group facilitation can enable groups to explore issues, ensuring all voices are heard, in an atmosphere of respect and compassion.
If your group is not in conflict, but just hesitant about how to embark on the next step in consensus, a trained group facilitator can also help you put together a collaborative strategy for your future. Use of an outside, neutral facilitator allows every member of a group to relax and focus entirely on the work at hand, without being burdened by having to “be in charge” of the process.
At Northwest Mediation Center, Mediation Director Melanie Nelson is a trained and certified Foreclosure Mediator under a special program sponsored by the Attorney General of the State of Washington, under the Foreclosure Fairness Act. Certain parties eligible for this program can be referred by their attorney or housing counselor. For more, see Foreclosure Mediation