What are the Foundational Requirements for Mediation?

{2:48 minutes to read}

When you take it down to the bare bones, there are really only two essential elements that must be present in order for a mediation to be viable and ultimately productive: Willingness to Dialogue and Full Disclosure.

Willingness to Dialogue

First, there needs to be a basic willingness to come together and talk to each other. This does not, however, require that the participants:

  1. Have the same degree of commitment to dialogue; or
  2. Feel comfortable speaking with each other.

In the most ideal situation, both participants would be equally ready and open to dialogue in mediation. But, as you can imagine, that’s not always the case. There’s often one participant who is more reticent, or even skeptical, of the process. And that’s okay. If that person has made it to my office, they are at least in the game.

Then it’s a matter of the mediator using her experience and skills to facilitate productive conversations between the two parties. Typically, by the end of our mediation sessions, the couple’s ability to get along and speak respectfully and constructively to each other will have improved significantly.

Full Disclosure

The term full disclosure may sound very legal, but simply put, it means that all of the information that needs to be furnished during the mediation is provided by each of the parties.

There is a fundamental reason for this requirement: A person cannot make a knowledgeable and informed decision if he or she does not have all of the information that relates to the subject being addressed.

It is the mediator’s responsibility to make sure that all of the relevant information has been furnished so that the parties can make informed decisions. The mediator needs to stringently enforce this principle. Otherwise, the very foundation of the mediation process would be compromised.

For example, I’ve had a handful of cases over the years in which it became obvious that one of the parties was unwilling to share essential financial information related to earned income, investment or retirement accounts. Without that requisite information, the mediation could not proceed.

Two seemingly simple principles – communication and full disclosure – yet both establish the essential foundation for a successful mediation.

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