How Does Family Mediation Work?

How Does Family Mediation Work? by Sandy Balick{4:30 minutes to read} Family mediation is a process used to facilitate the resolution of problems and challenges faced by families. Frequently, but certainly not exclusively, these issues involve care decisions for a parent or other loved one and the financial concerns associated with such decisions. These financial issues may be limited to how to pay for assisted or other living arrangements.

Additional financial concerns may surround what is to be done with a family business or assets for which no firm succession plan is in place. Often, health concerns are tied to the business issues in some way or another. The main point is that there are shared concerns but no consensus on how to proceed.

These seemingly complicated issues and the passionate feelings raised by them are ideal subjects for the mediation process. Mediation enables family stakeholders to share issues and concerns and to consider them in a manner that leads to solutions. It’s not magic, and it requires hard work, but at the same time, the parties enjoy a level of control over the process that is superior to that afforded by the courtroom, at a fraction of the cost and time involved in litigation.

It’s important to note that the mediator acts as a facilitator to the process but will not ordinarily be the individual making decisions; this is the role of a judge or an arbitrator (who acts as a private judge).

Finding an Appropriate Mediator

Common sources of mediator recommendations include:

  • Friends

  • Personal attorneys

  • Therapists

Online searches for family or divorce mediators will readily identify a number of candidates in your locality. These sites provide helpful information on background, qualifications, and individual practices.

The websites of mediator organizations may also be useful for this purpose. In the metropolitan New York area, 2 prominent organizations are the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation and the Family and Divorce Mediation Council of Greater New York. Their websites will provide ready access to information on their respective members. These organizations maintain Codes of Ethics and provide extensive training programs to their memberships.

Some mediators offer free consults, affording everyone an opportunity to meet them and ask detailed questions about the mediation process. Potential participants also have an opportunity to assess whether the particular mediator may be a good match for them personality-wise.

Before a mediation may begin in earnest, the parties sign a retention agreement with the mediator – it usually provides that any offers made or positions taken in sessions may not be introduced in any subsequent litigation of the disputes which are the subjects of the mediation.

The initial session is usually devoted to identifying the issues, which sometimes present themselves as a mass of disputed facts, conflicting concerns and goals, etc.

Once necessary information is gathered, it usually needs to be analyzed. The mediation process is open to input from specialists such as accountants, physicians, therapists, and others, whose assistance may be critical to the ability of the parties to narrow down issues and identify options.

The mediator, though not a decider of issues, is not a bystander, either. She/he is present in order to

  • conduct the proceedings,

  • assure that parties are heard,

  • assure solutions are discussed, and

  • set objectives for any follow-up meetings.

In the event of impasses, the mediator helps the participants to explore alternative approaches. The mediator also records agreements that are made and, ultimately, produces a Memorandum of Understanding to be used by attorneys to fashion the necessary formalized agreement that will be the basis of a durable, enforceable agreement.

Family mediation lends itself to all sorts of family concerns and is useful in steering things away from costly litigation. Don’t hesitate to contact a mediator to learn more.

Sanford (Sandy) Balick, Attorney & Mediator, NY Sandy Balick signature
Sanford E. Balick, Esq.
Founder & Principal Mediator
Consensus Point Mediation, LLC.

Phone: (646) 340-3434
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