Mediating Effectively
Mediating Effectively

Two alternatives for dispute resolution are available to help parents resolve divorce or parenting issues: Mediation or Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE). It is essential to consider what method is most appropriate for your situation.

When a history of abuse is present, ENE might be a better alternative because it’s evaluative and less collaborative, making interactions between the parties less prominent. In contrast, mediating in such situations is complex and might be uncomfortable for both parties.

Mediation is the better alternative if the parties can collaborate and discuss options and solutions but need help guiding the process.

Are parents required to enter Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Courts will request that parties enter ENE, but they can opt for mediation instead. However, courts will not force either party to enter an ADR process if they are opposed. However, if the parties can resolve their case through negotiations, they could save money, and litigation is expensive.

More importantly, there is some valid evidence that parents who mediated their cases to a conclusion had a higher rate of long-term compliance than parents who litigated their cases to a
conclusion, resulting in a court order to resolve custody and parenting issues.

What if parents cannot be in the same room?

If the parties request separate rooms, the mediator will make special accommodations, but other options can make the process more comfortable without adding costs.

  • The parties can mediate in separate rooms, but the parties will pay hourly for either ENE or mediation. If the moderators must go between rooms, the process will take longer, resulting in higher costs. Mediation models effective conflict resolution, making parents more comfortable negotiating future issues without third-party intervention.
  • If the parties are uncomfortable, they can request a support person to be present. However, support persons do not take an active role in negotiations. Having third-party persons present can make negotiations more complicated. Also, support persons must be prearranged in advance. If one party requests a support person, the other party has the same option.
  • The parties can request the presence of their attorney, which can be helpful. If the parties need advice, they can request a break to counsel with their attorney. This can prevent the need to reschedule mediation for a party to seek legal advice on an issue.

Preparing to Negotiate

Preparing to negotiate is crucial to receiving the full benefit of negotiations. There are essential steps to take before entering negotiations.

First, there must be a clear understanding of what is being negotiated.

  1. What are you negotiating about?
  2. What are the issues or challenges?
  3. What facts are relevant? What documents or validation needs to be provided?
  4. What are the options for resolving the issues and addressing challenges?
  5. Where might you agree and where might you disagree?


Second, prepare solutions.

  1. Prepare two or three options for resolution.
  2. Be ready to explain how each option benefits the children and the other party.
  3. What are the steps for follow-through?


When resolving conflicts, the key is approaching the situation with an open mind and a willingness to work collaboratively toward a mutually beneficial solution. By clearly articulating your concerns and focusing on the immediate issues, you can ensure that both parties are heard and that all options are considered.

By presenting two to three potential solutions each, you can encourage a collaborative approach to lead to a satisfying outcome for all involved. Remember, the goal is not to win at all costs but to find a resolution that meets everyone’s needs.

Practice expressing your concerns and solutions in a mirror or to a friend helps to remove expressions that might be counteractive to negotiations. When mirror-imaging yourself, ask, “What would be my response if I were facing me?” Watching yourself in the mirror will help you see your expressions. Listening to your voice will keep you steady when expressing your concerns. Being prepared will keep your thinking on the right track, and this will help you control your voice, body language, and expressions that might be distracting or nonproductive.

If you can present the problem and solutions equally, you will be better perceived. If emotions are kept in check, you will stay clear in your thinking and responses. If you have more than one solution, you will be defensive. If there are multiple options on the table, creative thinking will help parents reach solutions that work best.

Communication Tips

Using “I” statements when expressing yourself is more productive than “You” statements. “You” sounds like blame, while “I” statements take responsibility for one’s feelings and concerns.

For example, “I am concerned …” or “I feel…” or “I think that …” takes responsibility without the risk of the other feeling the need to defend themselves. Disputing an “I” statement is difficult when it is presented neutrally.

Avoid using generalizations, like “you always” or “never,” because never and always rarely exist. It will improve integrity if generalizations are avoided. It is best to focus on known facts and be focused on solutions.

Be aware of your verbal and nonverbal communication and body cues. 93% of communication is nonverbal, and only 7% is words. If your words counteract your tone of voice, gestures, body position, or expressions, your nonverbal message will control the understanding. Your words will be counterproductive. This is why practicing in front of a mirror or with a trusted friend is crucial in negotiating effectively.

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