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Food for Thought: What is mediation and why do it?

| March 24, 2021 12:00 AM

As our society becomes increasingly complex, alternative forms of resolving disputes are needed. The traditional use of lawsuits for resolving problems is giving way to alternative methods. One such method is mediation.

Mediation is much more cost effective. It saves time, money, aggravation and anxiety while affording the disputing parties maximum control over the outcome.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third person, called a mediator, acts to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute without prescribing what it should be. It is an informal and non adversarial process with the objective of helping the disputing parities reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Since the process is purely voluntary, either party can reject at any time further participation.

The mediator has no authority to make decisions or force the parties to accept any suggestions. The role of the mediator is not to create a solution and promote it; but to keep the parties engaged in problem solving.

Mediation is concerned with consensual resolution rather than an imposed settlement. It requires the parties to take responsibility for their own actions, negotiations, and contractual arrangements during and after the fact.

They must make a commitment to participate in good faith with the intention to settle, if at all possible.

Why Mediate?

There are many advantages mediation has over going to court. The major advantage is that both parties have control over the outcome instead of leaving it up to the discretion of a judge.

Mediation allows for creative solutions not always available from the courts. Mediation settles disputes more quickly and is much less expensive.

Communication is private and not a matter of public record. A mediator cannot reveal information outside the mediation.

A mediator must have both technical skills and an innate talent. The skills are learned in the 40 plus hours of classroom instruction, in service training and practical experience.

The talent is reflective in the sensitivity in which the mediator listens, hears, responds, creates and keeps the parties focused on the process.

The role of the mediator is to assist the parties in identifying the issues, reducing obstacles to communication, maximizing the exploration of alternatives, and helping parties reach voluntary agreements.

When Is Mediation Used?

There are a number of cases when mediation can be used. These include but are not limited to: divorce, child custody, parenting plans, real estate, neighbor disputes, landlord/ tenant disputes, workplace disputes, probate disputes and family issues.

In essence, mediation allows both the opportunity and the responsibility for the resolution of the conflict to lie with the people directly involved.

Dr. Leta A. Livoti Ph.D., LCSW, LCPC is a psychotherapist in Thompson Falls. She can be contacted at 827-0700.