I am now a trained mediator for community mediation issues such as small claims and for parent-child disputes. I participated in a long and intense thirty hour training at my current place of employment. One day a month for a year, I will be spending my afternoon in court to see if any parties are interested in having their cases mediated or being heard in front of a judge. The time commitment is due to having the costs waived for this mediation training.
What are the benefits for our clients to participate in court? Mediation is voluntarily for both parties to participate in and to work together on resolving their issues. The mediators are a neutral third party who facilitate this process and will not give legal advice. Information presented is confidential except in cases where one or both parties threaten to hurt themselves or others. Also, mediators do not testify in court and their notes will not be used in court against either party. However, if one or both parties choose to have their cases heard in front of a judge, they need to know that one will lose and one will win their case. Most of the cases heard are about hurt relationships between both parties and not about the money owed. The mediation process enables both parties to have their feelings validated and empathized in private sessions. The agreements reached are legally binding and the plaintiffs can choose to continue their case if the defendants do not oblige to the terms.
Mediation is not appropriate for a party that has a restraining order against another party due to legal and liability issues and for cases involving bankruptcy. Also, both parties need to be competent to participate and if one party is a minor, their guardian needs to consent to mediation.
What is the research on cases mediated and followed-through long term. The general data (not statistically proven) presented at my training for Massachusetts was 85% of cases mediated and 75% upheld for community mediation cases.
Mediation can also be used for cases involving divorce; contractual agreements; for students having conflicts with their peers in schools; and between countries on an international scale. Please note that community mediation is usually free in court where other agencies or businesses can charge fees for the other types of mediation cases.
Mediation can complement counseling or vice versa in helping our clients find the inner strengths to resolve their own problems between each other. Some parties also learn what their issues are after participating in mediation and want to come to counseling to work on them.
Robbin Miller is a counselor who specializes in mindfulness meditation; Positive Psychology; and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies; and is also a volunteer cable access producer and co-host of her show, "Miller Chat" in Massachusetts.