Gerry O'Sullivan Mediator's Toolkit book

Family Mediation


What is a family dispute?

Many families experience difficulties and stress at some time. Family disputes include any conflict between people who are related in some way, or who are part of a family or have been part of a family in the past.

This can include:

Family disputes can be about almost anything. Some of the most common topics people discuss in mediation are:

Mediation allows the parties in dispute to have the conversation that they had been unable to have with each other, either because conversations ended up in rows and shouting or because they just did not have the courage to raise the issues.

Mediation is a process whereby an independent, neutral mediator(s) assists the parties to come to agreement though collaborative engagement. The mediator supports the parties in identifying their issues and needs, in exploring how these needs can be addressed and facilitates them to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediation is not about blame or finding out who is right and who is wrong. The goal is that the parties will negotiate a workable future that does not have the problems of the past.

Mediation creates a safe and confidential space so that each party will feel heard and understood by an external, impartial mediator who will maintain confidentiality. The mediator provides a process that is safe for both parties and that allows them to communicate their interests and needs to each other so that they can negotiate and decide their mutually agreed solutions to their dispute. This is then written into an agreement document that is signed by both parties and the mediator.

Benefits of Family Mediation

Mediation contributes to short-term and to long-term solutions that are workable because they address the interests of both parties. The mediation process allows parties to have ownership of the process and, because of this; the parties consequently take responsibility for the development and implementation of their agreement. This then leads to their satisfaction with the outcome and to sustainable resolution.

Mediation allows parties to maintain dignity and respect and therefore leads to better relationships between the parties in the long term – it is a ‘win-win’ situation for all. It builds the skills of parties so that they will be able to handle any future conflicts more effectively.

Disputing parties can enter into mediation without jeopardising their other legal or dispute resolution options. The risks in employing mediation are low and the potential for a successful outcome is high. Importantly, privacy and confidentiality are maintained.

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