Authors: Mieke Brandon and Linda Fisher
Lawbook Co., 2018, Australia
Available in U.S. and worldwide from Thomson Reuters
I have been a fan of Mieke Brandon and Linda Fisher’s book Mediating with Families since their first edition in 2002, so I was delighted to find they have updated it again, for the 4th edition. When it first came out, I reviewed it and noted how it was both thorough and deep. The 4th Edition is amazing -- broad, thorough and deep. It is a unique text, in that it is not a casebook, nor an edited book of contributions. The authors have done an wonderful job of covering the field of family mediation. It is also so well written that it is a pleasure to read.
As a law school and dispute resolution adjunct professor I have been looking for such a book. It covers the issues that a mediator needs to consider in each area, and also goes into case studies and mediator techniques. It is up to date, dealing with topics that are of current interest in the field, such as the use of technology; LGBTQ families and mediation; the voice of the child; elder and adoption mediation; family violence; cultural issues; and assisted reproduction and surrogacy. In addition, it thoroughly covers the familiar areas of family mediation such as parenting plans, property distribution issues, ethics and standards of practice, family dynamics, and the different approaches to mediation. Finally, the book covers mediation theory and process, stages of mediation and mediation techniques.
The section on Family Violence is extremely thorough, touching on assessment; types of violence including physical and non-physical violence; men as victims, and the dynamics of violence.
Their chapters on the process of mediation, additional practice considerations, and the language of mediation are particularly helpful. These chapters consolidate a lot of information and give it to the student not only in manageable bites but with theory, questions to ask, case examples, and advice. The process chapter takes the student from the beginning of the mediation to the end, and includes techniques as well as reminders of mediation basics such as “Eliciting underlying needs and interests” and “The role of the mediator as ‘agent of reality’”. The additional practice considerations chapter includes in depth the issue that all students and mediators want: Dealing with Impasses. They include causes, indicators, examples and techniques. It is very helpful.
The book is Australian, which gives a different slant to many of the issues, and sometimes makes it not as relevant as a U.S. book might be to us, but mostly adds to the value of the book by introducing new information and approaches. One of the techniques used in Australia that I am intrigued by is the setting of agendas with questions instead of statements. Their example is on p. 403:
• How do we continue our parenting roles?
• How can the children spend time with each of us?
• How can we keep the children safe and secure?
• living arrangements
• special days and holidays
• the role of grandparents
• How will we communicate as parents?
• How will we make decisions for our children in the future?
They also mention our more normal approach:
• Children’s needs
•Living and spending time with each parent
However, I find the question approach quite compelling, and was happy to try it out with my own clients.
There are some difficulties because of differences in terminology, but most of those differences can be overcome pretty easily. I did have to look up “superannuation” to find out it’s an Australian government process for contributing to retirement funds, but they paired “heads of agreement” with “terms of settlement” so that was easy to understand.
Finally, their discussion of cross-cultural issues naturally focuses on Australian cultures and is therefore not as relevant as a U.S. book would be. However, there are many American texts on cross-cultural issues for mediators, so we do not have to rely on this book.
I am thrilled to have this book available both for me as a practitioner and for my students and training participants as a textbook. I know it is a book I will refer to again and again for many years.