Balancing the tide: How mediation can be used for high conflict custody disputes.

Slam! Turning the lock clockwise while pressing your back against the door. Slowly sinking to the ground as tears rapidly erupt from your puffy bloodshot eyes. The joyful life that you once dreamed of has turned into a nightmare that you never imagined. As much as you want to pack up your bags and leave, it isn’t that simple. You have children to think about. In an aim to extend an olive branch, you stand up, wipe the tears from your face, unlock the door and attempt to talk to your partner about moving separate ways. Like a soldier in front of Buckingham palace, your partner is unwavering in your venture to achieve a resolution. As a result, you believe that the only way out is through paying an expensive attorney to file a custody petition.

Believe it or not, mediation can be an effective way to solve a high-conflict custody case. A high-conflict custody case is when both parties do not agree to even the slightest of terms about decisions that relate to their children. Traditionally, mediators prefer to handle cases with parties that have already agreed on smaller decisions prior to the session because there's a higher chance of a resolution during the session. However, The Umoh Foundation has mediators with social work backgrounds who have been taught how to de-escalate even the most explosive situations. The key to de-escalation is through the caucus phase of the mediation process. In the caucus phase, a party talks to the mediator privately. In a standard structure, a caucus is used at the mediator’s discretion which usually occurs after opening statements from both parties. Our method differs for high-conflict cases as we caucus with the parties after the mediator has explained the ground rules and prior to the parties beginning their opening statements. During the caucus, the mediator will ask each party to paint a picture of their dream scenario. After hearing the vivid scenario, the mediator will ask “How much are you willing to sacrifice to get to your happy place?” While reaffirming the neutrality, the mediator will tell the party to think about their happy place. The mediator will have the same conversation with both sides separately. After the caucus, the parties will begin their opening statements. In the event that outbursts or arguments occur at any point, the mediator will ask questions that diffuse the combative aroma that lingers in the air.

The mediators at The Umoh Foundation can effectively handle a high-conflict custody case. A higher than average amount of private meetings along with carefully sculpted questions and a touch of patience will most likely do the trick. The world has a history of using mediation to resolve high conflict situations. If mediation can end a military conflict, it can resolve a custody conflict. The power of peace can overwhelm any obstacle of war when wielded correctly. Choose peace.

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