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CLIENT (MIS)EXPECTATIONS OF FAMILY MEDIATION

"Take your life into your own hands, and what happens. A terrible thing, no-one to blame."

Erica Jong


• "One meeting will be all it should take."

It is very unlikely that one meeting will lead to a satisfactory comprehensive agreement on all issues, so you should expect that the mediation process will take several sessions.

• "The Mediator will help us reconcile."

Mediation is not therapy or marriage counselling. The mediator is not there to help you reconcile. Since the result (agreement) is up to the participants, this has happened, although it is very unlikely. You should not go into mediation with this as your main goal, as you will likely not achieve it.

• "Mediation or the mediator can work miracles."

It is the parties themselves who bring about, with help from the mediator, the "miracle" of agreement. Too high expectations can lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction with the process.

• "The mediator will make all the decisions."

The mediator will not make decisions for you, but will help both parties in making decisions based on their views of fairness .

• "We won't have to do anything except answer questions and tell the mediator about our problems."

Mediation is hard work for all concerned. You will have to prepare for each session and will probably have "homework" between them. The mediator will help you both communicate with each other and work out differences.

• "Everything will be worked out."

Although mediation has an 80%+ success rate, not all mediations lead to agreement on all issues. Even if you do not completely settle everything, it is very likely that you will have settled some issues which will make the resolution of the remainder, through your lawyers or by a judge or arbitrator, faster and less expensive.

• "We didn't need the mediator to settle this!"

Sometimes this is true, but in most cases, the participants have tried to negotiate a settlement before mediation. They come to mediation because they need help to reach agreement. A good mediator helps the parties reach agreement by facilitating the process, but it is the parties who actually work out the agreement based on their unique needs and circumstances.

• "Isn't mediation free?"

Mediation is usually a private professional service and, unless through a court based clinic, is based on fee for service. The cost of mediation should be discussed before the sessions begin.

• We made the decisions. Why are you charging us this much?"

Mediators do not make the decisions for you, so this is what should happen! Before starting mediation, you should know in advance what the process is about and what it will cost you on an hourly or session basis. If this is set out clearly in an agreement or contract to mediate, there should be no surprises at the end of the process. Mediators have invested time and money in training and continuing education. You are paying for the mediator's knowledge and experience in dispute resolution.