Nov 7, 2016

Mediation Creates Opportunity for Family Communication

Anthony became a father during high school – a situation that put him under intense pressure. He was arrested after an altercation with Brianna, his child’s mother, and his arrest left him unable to participate on the wrestling team. Without wrestling, Anthony felt high school was of little use to him. After his arrest, he was referred to mediation with his mother, Yvonne.

Yvonne and Anthony had a loving relationship. During the mediation, Yvonne expressed understanding and support of her son and understood that the decisions he had made had created challenges he was not well-prepared to cope with at his age. Anthony, a young man of few words, mostly agreed with his mother and her summary of the challenges facing him. It became clear that Anthony’s primary challenge was communicating effectively with Brianna, and satisfying Yvonne’s desire to be a part of her new grandchild’s life. Yvonne expressed that her primary need was to support Anthony in developing a clear plan for his future. For Anthony, that plan did not include graduating from high school, and would mean that he would move in with his father.

During their conversation, both Anthony and Yvonne began to share things that they had done that had impacted the other favorably. It was clear that with each of these “reveals” the other party became more aware that each had the other’s best interests and concerns at heart, but that they had not found a way to communicate with each other. Mother and son both seemed concerned that the other might react unfavorably to their actions and create a distance between them. Once they realized that they were genuinely interested in looking out for each other, it became obvious that what they needed was a communication plan that would keep the flow of information open. In addition, Yvonne was willing to undertake the task of being the intermediary in communicating with Brianna. Both felt that removing the stress of having Yvonne deal with Brianna would better enable Anthony to focus on what he needed to do to advance his plans for his future.

In the end, Anthony and Yvonne eagerly entered into a written agreement outlining a plan for weekly communication, including getting together at least once a week for a mother-son meal. In addition, they agreed that Yvonne would assume responsibility, at least in the short-term, for communicating with Brianna.

Oct 13, 2016

Resolving the Condo Conflict

Conflict between unit owners and condominium associations is very common, and mediation can be a great resource for resolving it. Center for Conflict Resolution's Housing Mediation program regularly serves parties with this type of dispute. Here is a recent example:

Dorothy was a condo owner who had a dispute with her condo association that took 14 months to finally resolve.

Dorothy was very surprised one day to find an invoice in her mailbox for $900 in plumbing repairs, even though she had no damage to her unit. The letter stated that the leak occurred in a wall that was part of her unit; therefore she was responsible for the cost. Nothing had been communicated to Dorothy about the work, and when the work was done, the plumber never entered her condo. Dorothy believed the leak occurred in a common area and that she was not responsible for the charges.

Dorothy communicated her disagreement to the Condo Association and held off on paying the plumbing bill while she waited for an answer. She was initially frustrated that she had not been informed of any of the plumbing problems, but then she felt increasingly disrespected by a lack of response from the Condo association. Dorothy decided to withhold her monthly assessment of $215. Several months went by without any action on the part of the Condo Association. Then Dorothy received notice that she was being taken to court.

Dorothy realized she needed a lawyer, which took time to find and added expense. There were 3 different court appearances over the 14 months, and each time the Condo Association was represented by a different attorney and the case continued. By the time this case came to court for the 4th time, Dorothy was being asked to pay almost $8,000 in late charges, attorney fees, court costs and of course, the initial $900 for the plumbing problem. Both parties agreed to mediation the morning they were set to go to trial.

After initial statements, both parties expressed a willingness to try to resolve the matter. By this time, Dorothy had a different understanding of the meaning of “common area” and acknowledged that she had withheld her monthly assessments due to frustration about the lack of communication she received from the Condo Association. The Condo Association’s attorney acknowledged that they were willing to negotiate lesser amounts for attorney’s fees and some charges.

During the initial negotiation the parties grew angrier as both sides made offers that were deemed too low or too high by the other party. The mediator worked to reframe the offers on the table, acknowledging that the parties were both interested in settlement and that both parties acknowledged their responsibility in the escalation of the conflict. The mediator’s presence and perspective kept the discussion focused and the parties were able to agree on a total that they both thought was fair. Additionally, the terms of payment were discussed and a payment plan extending for 24 months was approved by both parties.

Both parties left the mediation on good terms and were relieved that the matter had been resolved.

Aug 8, 2016

Committed to Earning Respect

Nariah came to CCR for a family mediation session with her grandfather, Orien.

She had been referred to CCR after she was arrested for battery. Nariah and another girl, Jada, had argued over Facebook and Nariah told Jada that when she saw her, she was going to slap her. At school the following day, Jada challenged Nariah (in front of other students) “I thought you were going to slap me…”, so Nariah slapped her.

The two girls began fighting. In the scuffle that followed, the school’s principal was knocked to the ground trying to break up the fight. As a result, the principal was badly injured and both girls were arrested.

Nariah was suspended from school and sent to mediation through a court diversion program. Although the principal did not participate, Nariah was able to have a mediation with her grandfather about the incident.

During mediation, Nariah admitted she had a problem with authority and disliked most of her teachers. Sadly, she did like the principal and felt that Dr. Connor had tried to reach out to her and help her in the past. She repeatedly said that she felt bad that as a result of her injuries, the principal had missed that year’s 8th grade graduation. Nariah said that she was generally “disrespectful” and did not like following rules. At the same time, though, she recognized that when she was disrespectful, she often missed out on doing the things she enjoyed because the teachers would punish her by making her miss participating in sports. As Nariah spoke with her grandfather and the mediator, it became clear that she craved respect from her teachers. The teachers who recognized her need for respect definitely received respect in return.

During the mediation, Nariah discussed her dreams, including being a good person, helping others, becoming a pediatrician and working with children.

Her grandfather believed that she wanted to change and at first he felt she needed more discipline. He was very concerned with the amount of time Nariah was spending on Facebook and felt that if she was challenged by other kids she would not back down. He said there was a lot of love in their home but also a lot of tension due to financial issues.

Through detailed conversation, the mediator built trust with Nariah, who shared that she felt different from everyone else because her birth father had been in jail since the day she was born and would be there for the rest of his life. Nariah had never had any contact with him. She said it made her angry all of the time. During the conversation, Nariah was able to think about about ways she might fill her time more constructively than being on Facebook, and work toward her goal of helping others. She also decided that she needed some counseling about her father. Orien said that during the mediation process, he realized that Nariah had a wall up to defend herself and that the situation with her father had “taken a big toll on her; maybe more than we realized.” He had pride in his family and felt that they could work with her to try to be more respectful and to control her temper. Orien also recognized how important it was to Nariah to be treated with respect, and why that was so important to her. He wanted her to have pride in herself and to try to stay away from Facebook. Since they both knew that it was unrealistic that a 14 year old girl would stay off Facebook, they talked a lot about strategies to deal with negativity on social media.

Orien was especially pleased with the mediation because going in, he was very anxious about what to expect. Nariah expressed that she was relieved to be able to talk bluntly about her situation without judgment. In mediation, Orien and Nariah created a plan for communication, discussed strategies for dealing with conflict online, and left with a better understanding of what was important to both of them in helping Nariah achieve a better future.

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