What is Mediation? For one thing, it is Voluntary

The question, What is Mediation, may be a simple one; the answer is not.

There is plenty of confusion over what constitutes mediation, and many different areas of mediation practice:  labor/employment; international relations; commercial, civil court; community; environmental; divorce; family; environmental; and more.  There is ‘transformative’ and ‘evaluative’ mediation.  Mandatory and voluntary mediation.  Mediators themselves may mean different things when they use the word ‘mediation’.

I’m writing here to discuss what I do and how I practice.  And, while I believe that I can clearly explain how I follow the process, I don’t think it falls neatly under any particular label.  In fact, within certain boundaries, I may work somewhat differently with one couple (or group) than I do with another.  That being said, for me, mediation has certain cornerstones that I follow in every case.

One characteristic of mediation, as I practice it, is that the process is:

  • Voluntary
    • Clients who see me choose to do so.  I begin with a consultation, and it is up to the spouses (in a divorce situation) whether to schedule one.  If yes, the parties attend together.  We are all in the same room at the same time.
    • After the consultation, the spouses decide whether or not to try mediation (though I will tell parties if I don’t believe I can assist them, so as to save them time and money).
    • Once mediation begins, either spouse is free to discontinue at any time; to literally walk out.  Either party can choose to end the mediation at the first session, or at any session thereafter (if the case involves multiple sessions, as divorce cases do).  If a spouse ends the process, s/he is free to begin or continue with court proceedings, as if the mediation had never taken place.

To be continued. . . . .


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