Sharon felt like she had nowhere left to turn. Her 19-year-old stepson, Cody, had been living with her for years and she had recently become very concerned about his behavior. After multiple fruitless conversations, Sharon filed a case in eviction court to try to have Cody move out of the house.
When Sharon and Cody appeared in court the judge sent the parties to mediation with the Center for Conflict Resolution. The mediator asked each of them to tell their stories and learned that Sharon had been married to Cody’s dad, but that there had been a divorce 3 years ago. At the time, Cody’s father was not able to find a new apartment in Cody’s school district and so the three of them had agreed that Cody would continue to live with Sharon. When Cody graduated high school Sharon told him he could stay in his room in the basement if he paid some rent and continued to do chores around the house. The two of them had never agreed on an amount of rent, though, and Cody had never paid Sharon any money.
The mediator asked more questions and learned that in the 6 months leading up to the mediation, Sharon and Cody had fallen into a pattern where they would have a large fight, then not speak for a few weeks, and then return to living together peacefully. Sharon did not know what Cody was doing for work and she disclosed during the mediation that she was afraid her house had become a hangout spot for teenagers to drink and play video games. She did not want this behavior in the house because she felt it created liability and was unproductive for Cody. She wanted him to work or go to school.
Cody was nervous about having a law suit filed against him. He told Sharon that he had been looking for full-time work, but that he wasn’t qualified to do anything that paid enough. Cody said that he knew it was time for him to move out on his own, but that he simply did not know how to get started.
The mediator continued to facilitate the conversation and helped the parties realize that they both wanted the same things – for Cody to be gainfully employed and for him to move out on his own. They created a plan for Cody to get a job and move out in 6 months. During the next 6 months, Sharon agreed that Cody did not have to pay rent, but that he did have to give her money every month which she would save for him and return to him when he moved out. They both thought this would be good practice for Cody. Additionally, Cody agreed not to have guests over without Sharon’s permission and to search more aggressively for work.
During the mediation Sharon had a chance to express her frustration and hopelessness. Cody, on the other hand, had the opportunity to discuss his independence and to be treated as an adult. Once they were able to express themselves, they were able to build a plan that would allow them to maintain their relationship and to come to resolution.