The goal for mediation is to set up a safe, confidential, and controlled environment. The participants and/or the mediator can set ground rules to maintain an atmosphere of mutual respect. Mediators are trained in methods that result in “leveling of the playing field”. If a party is clearly being coercive, a mediator can work through the imbalance so that each party’s views are heard and acknowledged. If one side gets out of control verbally, the mediator will address the problem. If someone gets out of control physically, the mediator will take appropriate steps, most likely by terminating the session or calling the police.
If you and the other party feel uncomfortable around each other, it is possible for the mediation to proceed with the parties in separate rooms. The mediator meets with each side individually to discuss the conflict and carries the information back and forth without the parties meeting face to face.
Marc P. Feldman’s Divorce Mediation Center of New Jersey can help by:
- Taking control of the process. By giving a structure and direction to the mediation process, the mediator allows the parties to concentrate on the issues in mediation. The mediator needs to have a sense of where the process is going and should regularly analyze the progress of the mediation.
- Modeling good behavior. By behaving in a courteous and respectful manner towards the parties, the mediator can model good behavior and encourage better personal relationships between the parties. Mediators aim at establishing good relationships with the parties and lawyers.
- Keeping lines of communication open and monitoring the mediation. In a protracted mediation, the mediator keeps regular contact with the lawyers to monitor the state of the mediation. This is essential not just in keeping the mediator informed about each party’s thinking, but it also enables the mediator to keep lines of communication open, particularly at times of high conflict.
- Promoting direct communication between the parties. This can be done on a number of levels. The mediator’s techniques of summarizing and reframing, using open questions and detoxifying language can help encourage discussion on the issues. The mediator also calls caucuses (meetings with one party or the other) or discussions between the lawyers. Mediators must always be conscious that prolonged caucuses can leave those not involved feeling excluded and suspicious.
- Calling out bad behavior when appropriate. Mediators are not be afraid of robust debate. The opportunity to vent frustrations and emotions, if carefully managed, can often lead to a more measured approach in the future. At the same time, mediation should be a safe environment for both parties. The mediator calls out bad behavior when appropriate.
- Coaching the parties. The mediator has a very important role in working with the parties separately to encourage greater understanding between them and to help them move towards a settlement. In caucus, the mediator can “translate” the other party’s positions or interests and encourage negotiators to look at issues from the other party’s perspective. The mediator can help each party to generate options. This can include walking the parties through some negotiating steps, for example, how to frame and present an offer. The mediator can also float ideas and options, and they can talk with each party about the alternatives to a settlement and about the risks of industrial action and, occasionally, litigation.
- Acting as a go-between. While direct dialogue should be promoted wherever possible, relationships between parties can deteriorate during during mediation. At these times, the mediator can protect the parties from each other and keep communication lines open by shuttling between them. In discussions with each party, the mediator can test proposals by floating them as the mediator’s idea.
- Summarizing agreements between the parties and making sure agreement is reached on all issues. Mediators can help maintain progress by summarizing agreements during the mediation and encouraging the parties to keep an accurate record of the negotiations. At the conclusion of the negotiations, the mediator should check that agreement has been reached on all issues. They should also check that the parties are clear on what will happen next.
Marc P. Feldman’s Divorce Mediation Center of New Jersey serves clients in Parsippany, Morristown, Morris Township, Morris Plains, Dover, Rockaway, Roxbury, ,Madison, Florham Park, Chester, Boonton, Chatham, Denville, Hanover, Florham Park, Kinnelon, Mendham, Mount Olive and all of Bergen County, Essex County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, Morris County, Passaic County, Somerset County, and Union County, New Jersey.