1. How do I contact Community Mediation, Inc. (CM) to set up a mediation?
You may contact Jacques Lewis our Staff Mediatior by phone at (203) 782-3508, email firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by our office, at 3013 Dixwell Avenue in Hamden, CT. You may also contact us via our website, www.community-mediation.org. When you call CM, Mr. Lewis will talk with you about your specific concerns and help you decide if mediation is a good fit. If it is, the other party in the dispute must be contacted and asked to participate in the mediation. We encourage you to make that request. You might recommend that the other party read more about the mediation process on our website or contacting us and requesting informational materials. If you would prefer, CM can contact the other party to explain the process and invite him or her to participate. If the other party agrees to meet, we will schedule a mediation session at a mutually convenient time and place. If you wish to utilize a dialogue or dispute resolution service other than mediation, the CM staff can discuss this possibility with you as well.
2. Why should I try mediation instead of calling the police or suing?
When a dispute is discussed in mediation without blame and hostility, both parties are more likely to understand and respond in a positive way. Mediation avoids the embarrassment, cost, and time of the court system, and you can work out your own agreement rather than having a decision handed down by a judge or jury. If no agreement is reached, you can proceed with legal action if you choose. (Also read “Why Choose Mediation?”).
3. What does mediation cost?
CM uses a sliding scale method, which is based on the household income of all participants, to determine the cost of the mediation session.
4. What sort of disputes can benefit from mediation?
Conflict in many different situations can be managed through communication and mediation. A neutral third party can help solve problems between neighbors, landlords and tenants, consumers and merchants, organizations, businesses, co-workers, housemates, church members, and others. We offer mediation on issues such as pets, noise, lifestyle, rental agreements, money and more. We are available to address any dispute that could conceivably be addressed through dialogue, as long as both parties are genuinely interested in finding a resolution to the problem and can make decisions for themselves.
5. What types of disputes are inappropriate for mediation?
Community mediation is unlikely to be suitable if the situation:
- Needs a court ruling on a point of law
- Needs a court to enforce the final outcome
- Involves a party who refuses to participate willingly
6. What is the mediator’s role?
Our mediators are local, successful professionals trained in communication and conflict management. They have a wide variety of career backgrounds and interests, and they share a commitment to serve their community. They volunteer to serve as impartial third parties because they believe in the power of collaborative negotiation to resolve conflict. Prior to mediation, the mediators are provided only with a brief summary of the situation to be discussed and the names of the participants. Mediators are not assigned to a case if they know the participants personally or if they have any stake in the outcome of the mediation. Mediators do not serve as judge or jury, nor do they seek to determine right and wrong or place blame. Mediators do not impose a decision, like a judge or arbitrator, nor do they give legal or professional advice. Rather, they facilitate communication by helping people explain their viewpoint, clarify issues, identify underlying concerns, explore possible solutions, and, where possible, reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
CM tries to enlist two mediators for each mediation session. Having co-mediators brings the wisdom of an additional person to the table, which often contributes to achieving a successful outcome.
7. What happens at a mediation?
A mediation begins by welcoming and introducing all participants, followed by an opening statement from the mediator. Each party will get uninterrupted time to describe the conflict from their perspective while the mediator and other party listen. The mediator asks clarifying questions along the way, which often brings out important information that may not have been known or understood before. Sometimes, the mediator asks for a private meeting or “caucus” with one disputant at a time in order to allow them to express their thoughts more freely or to explore possible solutions with them. Either party in mediation also can ask to caucus privately with the mediator at any time.
In the final part of the mediation, potential resolutions are discussed. The mediators have no intent or role in influencing the outcome. Their only interest is to help negotiate agreements that are satisfactory to both parties. If the parties agree on steps to take, their decisions are written into an agreement that spells out what will be done. That agreement is signed, and copies are given to all participants.
8. What if the other side does not stick to the agreement?
Mediation agreements only include realistic steps that both parties are willing and able to carry out. Our experience is that mediation agreements usually hold up because the signers developed it themselves. However, the parties anticipate what the consequences will be if the agreed-upon actions are not taken and include in the agreement future steps that they will take if the agreement is not kept. If the parties wish, the written agreement may be considered binding in the same way a written contract is binding. To do so, it must contain a clear statement that each disputant: 1) wants the agreement to be binding and 2) understands that the agreement is admissible in court should enforcement become necessary. Mediation agreements do not imply other means of enforcement, such as intervention by police or sheriff’s officers. CM does not monitor or enforce its mediation agreements. If an agreement breaks down at any time, the parties can always return for further help, or seek alternate means for resolving their dispute.
9. How do parties in a mediation communicate?
Respectful communication is necessary to for mediation to succeed. To arrive at a workable agreement, a mediation must be psychologically and physically safe for all parties. Therefore, participants agree beforehand to follow certain communication guidelines, such as uninterrupted time for each participant to speak, and no foul or threatening language, gestures, or actions. Mediators assure that these guidelines are followed. Genuine desire to discuss and resolve the dispute are also key to mediation. Parties must honestly express their viewpoint and listen open-mindedly to what the other says. If someone is focused only on blaming or revenge, the other tends to fight back and stop listening, which lessens the chances of successfully managing the conflict. Mediators set the tone and model the attitudes and behaviors that enable conflict resolution.
10. Is mediation confidential?
Yes. For the parties to feel free to discuss the issues openly, everyone present signs a confidentiality agreement before the mediation session begins. Confidentiality means information revealed in the session will be kept private and not shared with others outside the mediation or in any future legal case.
11. How long does a mediation session take?
Mediation sessions are scheduled for two hours. Although many sessions do not take the full two hours, the parties are expected to set aside that amount of time. Occasionally, a second mediation session is needed, which can be scheduled at the end of the session, if both parties agree. Please bring your calendar with you to check your availability should another session need to be arranged.
12. Where will the mediation be held?
It is important that a mediation be held at a neutral site. We usually arrange to hold the sessions at our offices or another neutral location that is convenient for the parties, such as a church, library, police station or community center.