The Many Benefits of Adult Family Mediation

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By Sig Cohen

Families facing disagreements on issues such as caring for aging parents, encouraging an older adult to stop driving, or equitably distributing trust proceeds are increasingly turning to adult family mediation to settle their differences. Having a neutral third party help a family resolve their disputes is more attractive than the delay, cost and distress of litigation.

When family members forge a path forward together, there are no winners or losers. As a result, an elder can look forward to his or her family having less rancor and more mutual respect.

Adult family mediation offers families the opportunity to air their concerns in a “safe space.” Sessions are confidential. The process is simple: An adult family mediator confers one-on-one with parties before they meet in a “plenary” session. When they convene, the mediator explains how the discussion will move forward. Then the mediator invites each party (or their attorney) to share their concerns and goals.

When a mediator facilitates the discussion, it’s more likely that the parties will listen to the other side and speak without interruption. If an exchange becomes too heated, the mediator will suggest taking a break. Throughout the process, family members are challenged to: (1) identify the issues dividing them, (2) come up with options to settle them, and (3) collaboratively carry out the terms of what they’ve agreed to.

Mediators do not give legal advice. They recommend parties seek counsel from a qualified elder attorney. Nor are they therapists. Again, they suggest family members meet with a professional in that field.

Mediation is future focused. While the process cannot repair the past, it provides an avenue to more peaceful, cooperative family relations in the future.

Mediation also affords family members conflict resolution tools, so they can settle future disputes without a neutral third party. Once they’ve successfully settled their case through mediation, families are more confident in their capacity to resolve future conflicts themselves.
Adult family mediation brings out the best in people. When family members engage in mediation, their relationship usually moves from friction to traction and from deadlock to determination to put their issues behind them and create more resilient family bonds.

Sig Cohen is a Family and Elder Mediator

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