Beginning the Process
- Find a neutral location. The mediator's office is ideal, but a family member's home is also an option. It's best to have everyone in the same room, "transformative mediation," rather than "shuttle mediation," in which family members are in separate rooms and the mediator goes back and forth. But if family members are combative and emotions cannot be contained, a shuttle approach may work.
- Identify the issues. The mediator will clarify the problem and each person's goal. All will share their perspectives, and the mediator will help form solutions that might be mutually acceptable. Remember, stay focused on what is best for the child.
- Length of time. You may resolve the conflict in one session (usually about 2-1/2 hours), or it may take multiple sessions. The length of mediation will depend upon the complexity of the issues and participants' commitment. Generally, it's a good idea to be honest and straightforward throughout the process.
Reaching a Resolution
Once you delve into a discussion about a visitation issue, you may be surprised at what's behind it. Often, these kinds of disputes stem from hurt feelings, misperceptions and lack of communication. A mediator can guide family through the emotions to get to the heart of the matter.
Sherrod Deputy, a mediator in Indiana and Arizona, recently worked with a mother whose feelings had been hurt by the grandmother, and as a result, she wouldn't let her child see her. "In that family, all the mother needed was an apology to smooth over her hurt feelings," Deputy said. "When the grandmother offered the apology, she was allowed back into the child's life. In the end, it was a win-win situation for everyone."