Donald T. Saposnek

Donald T. Saposnek

Donald T. Saposnek, Ph.D., is a clinical-child psychologist, a child custody and family mediator and a national and international trainer and consultant in child psychology and mediation since 1977. He is the author of the classic text, Mediating Child Custody Disputes: A Strategic Approach, and co-author of Splitting America: How Politicians, Super Pacs and the News Media Mirror High Conflict Divorce. He is a Founding Board Member and Editor-in-Chief of Academy of Professional Family Mediators’ publications and has published extensively in the professional literature on children, divorce, and mediation. He has taught on the Psychology Faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz, for 41 years, and has been an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University School of Law, Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, since 2009.

Contact Donald T. Saposnek

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Articles and Video:

Inside the Mediation Room with Michael and Karen Aurit - Guest Don Saposnek (02/22/22)
This is the first live podcast: "Inside the Mediation Room with Michael and Karen Aurit - Today's Guest: Don Saposnek

Book Review of Evolution of a Field: Personal Histories in Conflict Resolution (10/21/21)
This book review of Evolution of a Field: Personal Histories in Conflict Resolution, co-edited by Howard Gadlin and Nancy A. Welsh, presents an overview, with snippets of personal and autobiographical material, of this penetrating collection that comprises the “personal stories” of 23 leading practitioners and scholars in the field of conflict resolution.

Transcending Mediation Models (05/05/20)
Don Saposnek describes how different mediation models, while they may have different qualities and values, are often blended together by experienced mediators.

Interview with Don Saposnek (04/10/20)
This is a new interview with Don Saposnek, long-time leader in the field of divorce mediation and best supporting the interests of children in divorce, by Robert Benjamin as part of Mediate's new "The Future of Mediation and Negotiation in Our Culture, Politics and Society" video series.

Mediation Training Academy (humor video) (02/01/20)
This tongue in cheek video shows two instructors at "The Mediation Academy" discussing mediation fee arrangements and 12 steps to avoid mediator emotional co-dependency. Be sure to to check out all of our continuing education offerings at University.

Resolve-O-Matic (humor video) (02/01/20)
Join Chip Rose and Don Saposnek for their tongue-in-check infomercial for Resolve-O-Matic. Hear about all of the many benefits and how Resolve-O-Matic will change your life for the better.

Moments of Genius (09/30/19)
Donald Saposnek details the moments when he feels the most effective and competent while mediating. He uses the basketball analogy of being 'in the zone' by strategic maneuvering.

Ascending the Status of Mediation - Supporting the National Mediation Policy Act (06/17/19)
The Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM) recently became the first major organization to endorse The National Mediation Policy Act, a seminal national effort to improve the sanity of discourse in our country.

Book Review: The Master Agreement by Jay Bultz (10/08/18)
'The Master Agreement', now in its Second Edition, offers a comprehensive manual of issues, clauses and phrases for use in drafting Marital Settlement Agreements. This book is unique, of very high quality, will save you time, and elevate the quality of your drafting.

Interview with Don Saposnek - Views from the Eye of the Storm (07/31/18)
This is the complete interview by Robert Benjamin with Don Saposnek, a leading family mediator, writer and editor, filmed as part of's 'Views from the Eye of the Storm' Video Series.

Splitting America Redux: Implications for Keeping our Kids Safe (03/16/18)
After 911, our lives changed seemingly forever. No longer a safe, secure, innocent society, Americans have come to a tipping point.

What Should We Tell the Children? Developing a Mutual Story of the Divorce (07/10/16)
One of the most typical questions asked of me by parents who are beginning the divorce process is, “What should we tell the children and how should we tell them?”

Realistic Expectations Needed (01/15/15)
"While mediation can be quite powerful when used as an intervention with the appropriate population, it does have its limitations. By keeping this reality in mind as we go into the future, we can avoid wasted efforts to overcome human limitations by over-idealizing this tool." Read Don's article here.

Mediation Going Forward: What Do We Know? What Can We Expect? (12/17/14)
The current complexity of our problems, at least in the U.S., is close to the point of overwhelm; for the individuals involved, for the governments that rule them, for the courts that adjudicate them, for the economic systems that support them, and because of the corrupted values that guide them.

REVIEW of Ellen Bruno’s DVD, “SPLIT: Divorce Through Kids’ Eyes” (11/26/13)
Ellen Bruno’s new film, Split takes us to a whole new level in understanding the effects of divorce on children. The movie is 28 minutes long and consists 100% of interviews of real children (no adults were harmed used in the making of this film) telling about their experiences going through their parents’ divorces. I strongly encourage you to view this lovely film and discover ways to integrate it into your work of supporting families going through divorce.

Ten Tips for Developing and Drafting Effective Parenting Plans in Mediation (10/31/13)
A mediation process that is thoughtful, respectful, and paced to fit the communication style and needs of the parents will increase the chances of crafting a clear and comprehensive parenting plan. Such a process offers a supportive and cooperative context, promotes direct communication between the parents, empowers the parents to make their own decisions, remains sensitive to their unique couple dynamics, and maximizes a tone of flexibility for future modifications to their agreement. While this context is very important, even more is needed to develop an effective parenting plan. The following ten tips will ensure a well-drafted product.

From Don Saposnek (10/14/13)
Innovation after visionary innovation—that is the stuff of that is revealed with each successive issue of the Newsletter. Not only do I regularly refer clients and professionals, both new and used, to, its presence on the internet is a source of creative, unfettered ideas that constantly challenge the status quo of practices in our field. Without, there would mostly be same old same old. Without, the active field of mediation would still be mostly obscure. serves as a hub of contact for professionals and clients from all over the world to share problems, practices, resources and contacts. And, it has been an invaluable source of referrals to my practice, to boot. Congratulations to Jim Melamed and staff for their tireless efforts in achieving this long a wonderful ride!

The True Beginning of Mediation (humor video) (02/25/13)
The True Beginning of Mediation is an 8 minute tongue-in-cheek documentary tracing mediation's roots to Woodstock. Join Sunshine, A.J. and Jerry the Macrame Mediator for good laughs, and be sure to to check out all of our continuing education offerings at University!

Don Saposnek: Therapy With Mediation - Video (06/20/10)
Don Saposnek talks about integrating the practices of therapy and dispute resolution. More specifically, how his mental health experience and background have given him useful tools to help people resolve their disputes.

Preview: "The Lighter Side of Mediation" DVD (09/22/09)
This is a preview of the humor DVD "The Lighter Side of Mediation" featuring Chip Rose and Don Saposnek. Full information is available here

Donald Saposnek: Beginnings of ADR - Video (08/27/09)
Don Saposnek describes the shift that happened in Santa Cruz County regarding custody disputes. When mediated cases went through and did not re-enter the legal system, mandatory mediation became the norm for custody disputes.

Saposnek, Don: Incompetence Troubling - Video (05/22/09)
Don Saposnek explains he's troubled by the incompetence he has seen practiced by mediators and therapists in settling disputes. Would like more practitioners to research empirical evidence, helping them to be effective mediators.

Don Saposnek: Mediation Not a Separate Profession - Video (04/22/09)
Don Saposnek discusses his view of mediation as a practice people do in addition to another professional practice such as the practice of law, instead of mediation as a cohesive, separate profession.

From Don Saposnek (09/05/07) has created a world-class website that has such value that I regularly send my clients, my students, and my friends to seek its collective wisdom. The extensive collection of articles written by such talented and respected professionals are cited and reprinted widely in the fields for use in mediations and trainings worldwide. Congratulations are especially due to Jim Melamed and John Helie for their vision in launching this site, and to the many staff and contributors, who, for so many years, sustained this creative and practical service for conflict resolution professionals and consumers alike.

How Children Contribute To Custody Disputes (Part I) (10/17/05)
Children's limited comprehension of the meaning and implications for them of their parents' breakup creates terrible confusion and emotional upset and generates characteristic attempts to cope with the disruption. However, the limited means they have for expressing their needs makes it difficult for their parents to accurately recognize and address those needs.

How Children Contribute To Custody Disputes (Part II) (10/16/05)
Children's limited comprehension of the meaning and implications for them of their parents' breakup creates terrible confusion and emotional upset and generates characteristic attempts to cope with the disruption. However, the limited means they have for expressing their needs makes it difficult for their parents to accurately recognize and address those needs.

The Psychology Of Divorce (03/04/04)
In helping couples to successfully negotiate the ending of their marital relationship, it is vital for the divorce professional to understand the underlying dynamics of the family as a system and of the divorce process; the professional must grasp how the divorce crisis influences and is influenced by both family structure and family process.

Children’s Reactions To The News Of Divorce: What They Need From You (12/14/03)
The discomfort of parents talking to children about their upcoming divorce is often exaggerated by worries about how the children will react. Parents frequently worry that their children will not be able to handle the news, will fall apart, will be sad or angry forever, or worse, will hate the parents for life. While children certainly do not generally take kindly to hearing that their parents are splitting up, they initially do respond in fairly typical ways that are in accord with their developmental stages.

How Are The Children Of Divorce Doing? (02/04/02)
A recent Time magazine article asked “Does Divorce Hurt Kids?” and presented the conclusions from the two longest term studies of children of divorce. These two authors came to very different conclusions about the long-term effect of divorce on children. Which of these authors has an accurate handle on the effects of divorce on children?

How Language Shapes our Thinking: Towards a “Parenting Plan” (07/06/01)
There certainly are many couples who still will fight through their divorces, and, wars around the world will still occur. However, this simple change in the language within family law has optimized the good will and cooperation of many separated and divorcing parents, thus assuring more protection of their children from inter-parental discord. And, thus, another major benefit of mediation over litigation is realized...the shift from war to peace.

Family Section Editorial Winter 2001 (03/03/01)
Family Mediation has found a new home. The Academy of Family Mediators, which, for the past 20 years, has been the premier international professional organization for family mediators has, as of January, 2001, merged with the two other national organizations for alternative dispute resolution – SPIDR (Society for Professionals in Dispute Resolution), and CREnet (Conflict Resolution Education Network). The new amalgam organization, called the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) is now the largest membership association in the conflict resolution field, and has as its mission, “ promote peaceful, effective conflict resolution.”

Family Section Editorial Fall 2000 (09/29/00)
I am delighted to serve as Editor for the Family Section of the MIRC collection of informative articles. Thank you for visiting this site. I hope that we provide you with useful information and ideas that you can immediately use in your life and work. Your feedback and suggestions are always welcome.


The Mediators: Views from the Eye of the Storm Vol. I
Views from the Eye of the Storm

Featuring 31 of the most experienced mediators in the world.

This two-hour DVD is a "highlight" film of compelling commentary from pioneers and leaders in the field of mediation.

(2006) ISBN # 1-933857-04-8

This video is also available by online streaming here

DVDs are available for shipment to the United States and Canada. International purchasers are asked to order the online streaming version of this resource at

click here for a larger image
Dealing with Gatekeeper Parents
with Donald T. Saposnek, Ph.D. 

Recorded at the APFM Annual Conference, October 2018, San Diego

Dealing with Gatekeeper Parents:
click here for a larger image APFM Panel Discussion: Perspectives and Insights of Experienced Divorce Mediators

Featuring Donna Petrucelli, Jim Melamed, Chip Rose, Don Saposnek, Amanda Singer.

Moderated by Michael Aurit.

Recorded at the APFM Annual Conference, October 2018, San Diego

Perspectives & Insights of Exp. Divorce Mediators:
APFM What Mediators Can Learn from Social Science Research
What Mediators Can Learn from Social Science Research
with Don Saposnek

1.5 hours

APFM What Mediators Can Learn from Social Science: