Oct 23, 2018

Repairing a Friendship

Jaclyn and Olivia had been friends since 8th grade. During their junior year of high school Olivia got a car and, as one of the only people to have a car, often drove her friends to school and hang outs. Right before winter break, Jaclyn and Olivia were spending time at a friend’s house with a few other teenagers when Olivia got into an argument with another friend. Before long Jaclyn got into the argument as well and insulted Olivia. Olivia was angry, so she got in her car, turned it on, and locked the doors, intending to leave. Jaclyn thought that Olivia was only joking, and assumed she wouldn’t leave without giving Jaclyn a ride home, so she hopped on the trunk of the car to continue chatting with her friends.

Olivia put her foot on the gas pedal and in an instant Jaclyn was on the ground. At the time, no one realized how badly she had been hurt, so another friend gave Jaclyn a ride home and the group dispersed. Later that evening, when Jaclyn’s father returned from work, he found her demeanor strange and, after hearing about what happened, insisted on taking Jaclyn to the hospital. Doctors determined she had a concussion and had injured her arm falling off the car.

Jaclyn’s father called the police to report the incident and Olivia was arrested the following day. Olivia’s case was referred for mediation at the Center for Conflict Resolution. Jaclyn and Olivia participated along with their parents – Jaclyn’s dad, David, and Olivia’s mom, Val. The mediation was held 3 months after the incident had occurred and in that time Jaclyn and Olivia had not had much contact. Their parents had never spoken.

From the beginning of the mediation it was clear that David was very angry. When he had a chance to speak he railed against Olivia’s actions and repeatedly demanded that her driver’s license be taken away. The mediator asked questions and guided the conversation to determine what was motivating David’s anger. Soon they all came to learn the extent of Jaclyn’s injuries. While her leg had healed quickly, the concussion had been quite serious and Jaclyn had missed weeks of school. She was still struggling to catch up on her class work and continued to see a therapist for memory concerns.

The conversation was challenging for all four parties. Olivia insisted that she had not intended to hurt Jaclyn and therefore was unwilling to accept blame for her injuries. Val explained that Olivia had been punished for the incident – she no longer had a car and had been grounded for months.

The mediator used listening and reflective tools to help Olivia process what had occurred, working with her to separate intention from impact. Eventually, Olivia came to realize that although she had not wanted Jaclyn to get hurt her action had caused it to happen. Additionally, Jaclyn accepted some responsibility, acknowledging that she had been foolish to climb on the car.

By the end of the mediation everyone was speaking calmly. Through mediation they had a chance to vent their frustrations, explain their behaviors, and take responsibility. Val offered to contact her insurance to assist in any unpaid medical bills and she and David exchanged phone numbers and made a plan to connect in the coming weeks. Jaclyn and Olivia apologized to one another and agreed to put the matter behind them and move forward in their friendship.

Sep 25, 2018

Developing Options Through Dialogue

The parties arrived to mediation upset. Betty, the landlord, had filed an eviction case against Julie, the tenant, because Julie had fallen two months’ behind in her rent. Julie’s mother had come to court to support Julie, and was very angry that her daughter was being taken to court. Julie’s mom yelled at the landlord in the courtroom, and the judge asked her to leave before sending the parties to mediation.

Julie and Betty sat down with the mediator. Julie was worried; she and her husband had three children under the age of 10, and a dog. They had started to look for other places to live, but it was difficult to find an affordable apartment large enough for their family. Betty was also worried; she was not able to work anymore, and this building was her primary source of income. She lived in one of the units and prided herself on being a good and responsive landlord. And she needed the income from Julie’s apartment.

Betty initially offered to forgive the back rent if Julie and her family were able to move out immediately. Julie explained that she had been looking, but couldn’t find any other suitable units. Julie’s husband had just switched jobs, and a period of unemployment had left them behind in their bills. However, Julie argued that, given a short-term payment plan, they family could catch up on the rent.

Julie also raised concerns about the condition of the apartment, including a too-large hole cut into a wall for the installation of a sink, and some problems with window seals. Julie said that Betty had been a good landlord, and fixed things that needed fixing urgently, but that these problems had lingered. Betty admitted she would need to resolve those issues before she could have a new tenant move in.

The mediator helped Julie and Betty think through what might happen if they did not reach an agreement. Betty was concerned about the cost associated with repairing the unit, and, with nowhere else to go, Julie said she was considering filing a countersuit related to the issues in the apartment. Both parties felt uncertain.

The conversation began to turn. Both parties began talking in a different tone and looked at one another with more understanding. Betty had not known that Julie’s husband was working again, and that gave her hope they’d be able to make up the past-due rent. The mediator helped the parties discuss the financial obligations of the tenant’s family, and then of the land lord’s obligation to the outstanding mortgage on the apartment, and if more time was possible, what a payment arrangement might look like.

The mediator assisted Betty and Julie in writing their agreement; three-hundred-dollar payments a month, on top of the current months rent due, until the outstanding rent was paid. The tenant could stay residing in the apartment. The landlord would have her money in full, keep her tenant, and have time to make the outstanding repairs to the unit. The tenant would have the eviction case dismissed, preserve her credit, and still have a good reference for when her family does want to move.

Mediation helped Betty and Julie have a thorough conversation and make a realistic plan to move forward.

Jul 25, 2018

Lost in Translation

Friends mean the world to Jessica, a teenager referred to mediation after she was arrested for fighting at school. Jessica and her mother, Vivian, came to mediation several months after the fight, and it was apparent to the mediator that the mother and daughter had a barrier in communication: while Vivian spoke exclusively Spanish, Jessica was much more comfortable speaking in English, and, when pushed, communicated with her mother in a mix between the two languages. There seemed to be many things which were lost in translation between the two women and their bilingual mediator was able to help them find the tools to communicate.

From the start, Vivian was adamant that her daughter had fallen in with the wrong group of people and wanted to empower her daughter to make the best choices as to the company she keeps. Jessica recognized that her behavior had changed when she joined a specific group of friends, and that by hanging out with them she had been in some serious situations, such as the fight that resulted in her arrest. Jessica noted that she had made concerted efforts to extricate herself from that group, but as a result, was worried for the coming school year because she felt she had no friends.

Despite the fact that Jessica agreed completely with Vivian, recognized that their relationship had been improving, and that Jessica had taken her mother’s advice and was spending more time with a childhood friend, Vivian was very emotional and wanted to focus the conversation with talk of the fight and negative changes in Jessica’s behavior when she joined the group of friends – which she had since left. While Vivian needed to vent about what she had been experiencing, Jessica was feeling as though she was continuing to be berated and punished when she had taken steps to address what both parties agreed as the root of the problem: the group of friends.

Through a guided conversation with a skilled mediator, an agreement was discussed and drawn up which addressed both of their concerns. Jessica and Vivian agreed that Vivian would be more involved with Jessica’s friends, and would be happy to have them over or meet them at community events. Jessica trusts her judgment, and wanted Vivian’s support as she rebuilds her network of friends. They also agreed that they would consider changing Jessica’s school, in the event that her childhood friend did not change schools to join her. Finally, they agreed on a plan moving forward, in the event that Jessica were to find herself in a situation where things may be escalating to a fight; Jessica would consult her teachers and her mother.

Both parties indicated that they had had open lines of communication and a good relationship, but that trust had eroded in the past year. They both wanted to work to re-establish that trust, and the mediation gave them the opportunity to acknowledge everything that they had not discussed and create a plan for moving forward.

  

 
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