Dispute Resolution

A Six-Step Guide to Family Conflict Resolution for Mediators

Mediation is a well-known family conflict resolution. Family mediation is an impactful form of ADR, where the mediator (an unbiased third-party) assists the family/families in conflict to lay the course of negotiations. Family conflict resolution matters include- asset division, child custody, maintenance, matrimonial affairs, etc.

The mediator encourages the parties in conflict to communicate with each other, pinpoint the problems, and come up with a solution that serves the interest of both sides. The mediator then aids in formally implementing the mediation conclusions with proper documentation.

Mediation does far more than just settle disputes, it respects the inherent values, views, and even emotions that are part of any familial relationship.

There are references of mediation/conciliation in family dispute resolution which are present in the Family Courts Act, 1984, Civil Procedure Code, Hindu Marriage Act, and the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 that gives a special status to Lok Adalats as it has been very effective in mediating family disputes.

Let us look into six steps to family conflict resolution for mediators which are advantageous in the process:

1. To educate the client what a mediation process is

Most of the time, people are unaware of a process such as meditation. Therefore, the very first duty of the mediator lies in educating the client about the entire process. The essence of mediation lies in the trust that the conflicting parties lay in a neutral third party (mediator). There is a moral obligation on the mediator to make sure that the clients are equipping with the right knowledge of the process. Moreover, try to be the unsolicited support for the client.

Before beginning formally, the mediator will ask the client to collect and provide all the necessary information and documentation to build a solid case.

2. Set up the requisites for family conflict resolution

Family conflicts are unique and more intimate. The mediator may schedule quick, separate meetings with both sides to make sure that they are in a good position to mediate. Additionally, realistic expectations for the process are to be offered. The mediator also clarifies the doubts and answers any related questions.

The mediator gives an opening statement and he expounds on his role as a mediator. This is followed by the consent of both the parties to agree to the process or not. If the parties agree then definitely the mediation process further happens. If not, some sanctions may be imposed on the party refusing to mediate for ignoring the process and its value.

3. Identifying the issue

Identifying and addressing every single problem consciously, to reach a resolution, both pragmatic and efficient.

The problem should be identified with two perspectives, one each of the respective parties. Moreover, the mediator will make sure no side blames the other side, unnecessarily creating chaos.

There might be a number of issues pertaining to family conflicts. However, the issues of concern should be the larger ones, which automatically results in fading the smaller, pettier issues. For instance, in a matrimonial affair- if we focus on divorce, and consider it as a larger issue. This will fade an inherent so-called pettier issue such as a lack of emotions between the couple.

4. Start with the discussions

The de facto family conflict resolution starts with amicable discussions. There will be both separate and joint sessions to realize the needs and demands of the clients. If the situation necessitates, the mediator can conduct sessions with the children and relatives of the conflicting members of the family. These steps will help the mediator to have a holistic understanding of the conflict, also with the lens of the family members thus affected directly or indirectly.

It has to be a surety that in the actual mediation session, the conflicting parties act in their best behavior. The discussion will take place calmly and respectfully. The communication has to be original, honest, and relevant. Further, the communication, both speaking and listening has to be efficient and productive.

The mediator will help discuss the stands of either party. Additionally, asking relevant questions to the parties would help the mediator acquire additional information.

Thus, with some concrete information, the focus of the mediator will be on addressing the foremost issues with utter care

5. Negotiate for the best interests

The parties tend to negotiate until they reach a conclusion mutually agreeable both. The mediator meanwhile plays his role to provide the best solution that caters to the interests and needs of both sides. In case negotiation fails, the matter then goes to court for a formal litigation process.

The mediator reviews that the clients don’t compromise in family conflict resolution. Mediation is about mutual and consensual decisions, with the help of a neutral party. It should be a win-win situation for both sides. Even the slightest sense of inquietude in the decision should be put forward then and there, to avoid dissatisfaction and future conflicts in the family.

The mediator using his skills should help clients in offering the best. Nothing is to be at stake, especially the emotions and relations, the values and interests, expectations and reliefs.

6. And finally, drafting the agreement

After concluding the discussions, the parties prepare an agreement between them.

The parties re-assemble for a final affirmation before documenting the settlement. The terms and conclusions of the settlement are orally translated by the mediator and further signed by the parties. The agreement is for a good cause, it will definitely be binding on the parties signing. It will be enforceable by the court because the law recognizes mediation formally.

The agreement should contain a clause, whereby any future dispute arising in the family will be solved via an ADR mechanism.

The mediator gives a closing statement by thanking the parties for their participation and cooperation during the entire process.

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by Sushree Swagatika

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