Family mediation is a process whereby a trained mediator assists parties in resolving disagreements. It is often used by couples who are separating or divorcing, but it can also be beneficial to parents who cannot agree about child-related issues such as where a child should attend school, what religious instruction the child should receive and whether or not the child should participate in extracurricular activities.
The aim is to bring about a compromise that suits all parties and provides stability for the children. It can be a more cost effective approach than litigation and much less stressful, as both sides are in control of the outcome rather than leaving it to a judge to decide.
Many people are not familiar with the mediation process and are not sure what to expect from it. The first meeting will usually involve collecting information and discussing general goals and perspectives of each party. The mediator may ask to have separate meetings and/or joint sessions to assist in understanding the situation from each perspective. In addition, the mediator might request meetings with the children to understand their needs and perspectives.
As with a family therapist, the role of the mediator is to listen, facilitate communication and guide the discussion to possible solutions. The mediator does not take sides, make judgments or determine facts and is not a substitute for an attorney. If an agreement is reached it can be documented and provided to a client’s lawyer for filing with the court.