What, is mediation, and what makes it such a positive tool for conflict resolution within families? I hope to explain mediation and its benefits in this post. Mediation is often described as a “meeting” in which the parties meet with a neutral mediator who helps them reach agreement. Having a face to face meeting between two parties is common, but it is only one from among a wide range of options for mediation. Sometimes parties to a mediation do not meet together at all. Sometimes they meet numerous times. Some forms of mediation will involve an entire extended family or organization. Using modern technology, mediation can also take place internationally or over long distances. The key element of all these variations of mediation is that the parties utilize a neutral facilitator who guides a process designed to help them reach their own, voluntary and authentic agreement.
Mediation seeks to give parties tools they need to resolve their own dispute, using whatever information they believe is relevant, based on their own values and circumstances, and reaching an agreement that is truly their own and which they feel is fair and workable. Does it sound too good to be true? It’s not. The beauty of mediation is that, if all parties are mutually committed to fairness, mediators have a large toolbox of conflict resolution skills and processes which can be utilized to help parties reach authentic, fair agreements that everyone can live with.
Sometimes individuals, families, or organizations wonder how they can possibly reach agreement, if they are stuck at an impasse already. The answer is that your impasse is not the end of the story. When you reach your own dead end and aren’t sure where to turn next, that is your signal that it’s time to call in a mediator, to see if they can help. The mediator is a professional who has many tools to help parties overcome barriers to agreement. Even if the strategies you have already employed have not resulted in a solution, there is a good chance that a mediator has more tools that can might help you.
The signature style of Just Mediation, LLC, is particularly suited to mediation of conflict in which relationships are key and where there are mutual, personal goals. Mediation within the court system is focused on cases already in litigation, involving only two parties, and focused exclusively on settlement of “this” case. While settlement through mediation in these cases is generally preferable (for many reasons) to resolution through courtroom battle, it does dis-service to mediation if it is seen merely as a tool for settlement of an adversarial, litigated case. Mediation offers so much more. Mediation need not be seen as a step along the way in the legal process. Rather, mediation offers a distinctive and different paradigm for addressing conflict, with many benefits. Here is a chart that highlights a few of the differences:
|Empowers parties to make their own agreement based on their own individual values, circumstances, and priorities
|Puts decision in hands of a stranger (a judge) who must impose ruling from outside in, and based on general legal principles
|Is not adversarial. Teamwork and collaboration is encouraged
|The parties are pitted against one another as adversaries
|Parties can decide upon and implement custom tailored, win-win solutions
|The judge making the decision in the case is limited to a set range of options
|Parties can communicate what is important and mutually hear what is important to the other side, without regard to whether evidence would technically be admissible in court
|Because the judge can only base a decision on reliable, probative evidence, much effort is made to keep the judge from hearing or seeing “unreliable” evidence
|Parties may decide mutually to engage neutral experts to assist in formulating solutions
|Each party hires an expert to “prove” their case is right and the other is wrong
The mediators for Just Mediation, LLC, are skilled in many types of mediation, including mediation for extended families and organizations. Our signature style of mediation is deeply committed to the idea of conflict transformation as an integral part of the experience of growing through the painful process of conflict resolution. While there are many aspects of transformative type mediation, a significant aspect is that it is focused not just on “settling” a case, but on helping you — the parties — find solutions that are authentic to your values and circumstances and also which will be workable and sustainable for you in the long haul. Using this approach, mediators for Just Mediation, LLC, help with many types of conflict, including not just divorce and parenting issues but also mediation and conflict coaching for extended families and for business and church organizations.
The principal of Just Mediation, LLC, Alexandria Skinner, trained in divorce mediation with Carl Schneider and Eileen Coen, a therapist-attorney team in Bethesda, Maryland. The training offered by this duo equips mediators to deal not only in legal aspects of divorce but also with the emotional and psychological aspects of the divorce and family transition. It also meets standards promulgated by the Association for Conflict Resolution as the starting point towards seeking certification as an Advanced Practitioner Family Mediator with that organization, a standard that is not met by any training offered in the State of South Carolina. Ms. Skinner also received additional and specific training in mediation of elder care disputes (Zena Zumeta and Susan Butterwick of Ann Arbor, Michigan), church conflict and disputes (Richard Blackburn of Lombard Mennonite Peace Center), special education issues (Cotton Harness through S.C. Department of Education), facilitative style mediation for certification as a S.C. Circuit Court mediator, and training as a community mediator (Beth Padgett through Community Mediation Center). Additionally, as an attorney, Skinner has worked on a wide variety of cases through her former work as an appellate court law clerk and staff attorney and as a lawyer for state government working on civil, criminal, and administrative cases and issues. She is also one of a handful of attorneys in South Carolina who is certified as an interdisciplinary collaborative professional by the IACP.
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