Apr 7, 2017

Open Communication Helps Familial Relationship

When I met the sister and brother who arrived at CCR having agreed to mediate the disputes that had arisen since they’d jointly purchased a house in Chicago I saw little hope of them resolving their differences.

Edward and Liz were siblings who were living in the same house. Edward had been renting out the finished basement in Liz’s house, below two floors that were occupied by Liz and her two children. In many ways, they said it was an ideal situation. Edward was able to have a close relationship with his niece and nephew, and helped out with maintenance on the house in return for a lowered rent on his space.

But there were a number of issues that brought Edward and Liz to mediation. Issues that had Liz considering filing an eviction notice against Edward. Edward had fallen behind in his rent, and Liz explained that several nights a week, Edward came home late and disturbed her sleeping children. Edward said he often tried to leave the house specifically until the kids were asleep because the noise they made in the evenings disturbed him and interrupted his own sleep. One night, they had a bad fight about it and he called the police, which upset Liz.

During the mediation, at first Edward and Liz spoke only to the mediator, seeming uncomfortable with addressing each other. Eventually the mediator helped them begin speaking to each other by asking them questions about how they had originally envisioned sharing the house. They were able to discuss the great relationship they had always had. They reflected on the advantages of living in the same home. And then the mediator helped them begin to discuss ways to resolve the problems that had come up. Both Edward and Liz agreed they wanted to work it out.

They did. The siblings came up with an eleven-point agreement that satisfied them both. Edward and Liz agreed to build a separate entrance to the basement space and outlined boundaries for when the children would settle down for the evening. They also resolved an ongoing disagreement regarding the placement of their mailboxes and worked out shared storage space in the attic. The siblings left the mediation glad they had worked out a way to move forward that allowed them to improve their relationship while continuing to live in the same house.

Feb 3, 2017

A Family Discussion

Darryl was riding bikes with his friends in a new neighborhood when they discovered an entrance to a junk yard. They were curious about what was inside and tried to sneak through the gate, but once they made it to the other side a large pile of scrap made it impossible to access the yard. The boys rode off to the skate park and were surprised 30 minutes later when police officers arrested them. Darryl was charged with criminal trespass and was referred to mediation by his probation officer.

The junk yard owner was not able to participate in mediation, so CCR mediated a case between Darryl and his parents, Ken and Sharon. Family mediations are an opportunity for youth and their families to discuss an incident that has led to an arrest to determine if there are underlying conflicts and to talk about possible resolutions.

Ken and Sharon both agreed that Darryl was a good kid. His older brother, Mike, had been a lot of trouble and as a result they had been pretty strict with Darryl. He wasn’t allowed to hang out on the street and he spent most of his free time at home, babysitting his younger brother.

Early in the mediation the family disclosed that they did not all live in the same home and while Darryl had been speaking with each of his parents independently, and they had been speaking to one-another, it had been quite some time since all three of them had spoken in the same room. Both parents were relieved that Darryl had not been in more serious trouble and the family discussed potential consequences for being arrested.

The mediator opened up the conversation, asking if anyone had any other topics they wanted to discuss, and the parties went on to talk about other rules and expectations that they had not all discussed in some time. The mediation gave them a chance to talk about Darryl’s school work, inviting friends over to the house, and whether or not Darryl could get a part-time job. While the family did not resolve every issue discussed in the mediation, they did have a chance to communicate openly together and create a plan for moving forward.

Jan 9, 2017

Eviction Avoided

Thanks to donations received through our Housing Mediation project, Center for Conflict Resolution volunteers are able to mediate cases like the one described below:

David had been living with his grandfather, Elijah, since he was 18. Over the last 5 years their relationship had become strained and, after many fights and threats, Elijah had filed a case in eviction court to get David to move out of the house. The parties arrived at court and had a chance to meet with a mediator from CCR before seeing the judge.

During the mediation both men talked about how hard it was to live in the house together. Elijah thought that his grandson was irresponsible, that he was doing drugs, and that he was making poor decisions in his life. David was insulted by Elijah’s accusations and insisted that he had only experimented with drugs a little and that he was an adult. David made it clear that although he might not be making the best decisions, he was entitled to make decisions for himself.

It was clear to the mediator that the conversation between the men was not a new one. David and Elijah said they’d been having this fight, on and off, for most of the last 3 years. In fact, a similar conflict between David and his mother is what resulted in him living with his grandfather in the first place. Through conversation, the mediator helped the parties determine what was most important to them. They both agreed that the living arrangement could not continue and that they needed a change. David said that he was willing to move out of the house, but needed time to save some money and make a plan. Elijah said he was in no rush to move David out of the house, but that he wanted a firm date set.

In addition to helping the parties develop their basic plan for David to move out, the mediator facilitated a conversation about the living arrangement and about their relationship. David was very hurt to have been sued by his grandfather and feared that the court case would have an impact on his credit. Elijah expressed his regret about filing the court case, but said that he had felt desperate to find a resolution, noting that his previous conversations with David had not yielded any results.

At the end of the mediation the parties had a plan in place that included a move-out date for David as well as details about how the two would interact in the time they still lived together. Due to mediation, the parties were able to avoid court and leave together.

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