I was a participant in two mediations: One was court ordered and the court mediator seemed horribly rushed. It was mandatory and not helpful to me. (I can't speak for my ex). The second mediation was with a professional doing post-divorce custody and child support mediation. This was extremely helpful in reducing misunderstanding and anger. It was funded through our children's health insurance coverage. I think it makes a difference if the participants are there voluntarily rather than mandated to participate. I felt the court mandated "mediation" was only going through the motions without adequate time allotted and only to meet a legal requirement.
Thom , Rockwall TX 08/18/04
Assurance of third-party neutrality is a foundation of mediation, yet, the question always arises with every party. As a professional mediator, I refuse to take sequential case assignments from attorneys and I refuse to accept any cases involving a resident or business party within the County in which I live.
Most but not all ADR case-management organizations assure neutrality by verifying first that the mediator has had no prior business or contact with any of the parties or their attorneys. I always verify at the mediation and directly with all individuals present that I have had no prior contact with anyone and assert that I have no interest in the outcome of the mediation.
Many companies and government agencies that utilize internal mediation processes attempt to assure neutrality by swapping mediators with other agencies, companies or divisions often located in other major cities.
I acknowledge that mediator empathy with each party's position may occur during a mediation, particularly during caucuses, however, as the mediator makes no decision I'm most doubtful that such empathy is of any negative effect upon the outcome. Conversely, a certain degree of mediator empathy with each party is likely necessary to elicit trust, openness, cooperation and earnestwhile willingness to look at the total perspective and compromise.
Misty , Harrisburg PA 04/11/02
How can someone going through a mediation or custody evaluation be assured of neutrality in any given case? How can a forensic examiner be certain they have gathered accurate data? They rely on honesty from parties on each side to come up with the best possible resolution, while working inside an atmosphere of adversity. On top of all that, how can the system guarantee integrity and a non-biased outcome? It would make sense to me to have some sort of system of checks and balances in both the legal end and the mediation end of the process. Maybe even videotaping of mediation or custody evaluation conferences, and even on what happens in the courtroom. That way noone has more power than they should over a given situation. That way nobody's integrity needs to be in question.