services - mediation

Mediation is a tool for finding practical, fair solutions in conflict situations between individuals and within and between groups. While my background is in school and community mediation, I currently focus on workplace mediation and international family mediation particularly in an intercultural context and more specifically in cases involving English and/or German.

The mediation process begins with the initial contact with the potential clients. At this point we clarify which conflict needs resolving, who should be involved in the mediation and what the framework for the mediation could be. If the mediation is to take place in Berlin, we can arrange a short initial meeting all at no cost so that all potential participants will have an impression of what would happen in the mediation and what it can and cannot achieve. The length and cost of the mediation are determined by the needs of the participants, the degree of escalation and sometimes by the resources available. The goal is to find concrete solutions for the issues at hand; these are usually documented in a written (legally binding) agreement or in detailed minutes.

Over the years, I have come to adopt a facilitative approach to mediation, i.e. I see my role as a bridge in the communication between the disputants, supporting them in gaining insight into the scope of the conflict, understanding each other’s perspectives and finding mutually acceptable solutions. Mediation is a strictly confidential and open-ended process, at times very emotional, but in the end pragmatic.

WORKPLACE MEDIATION

Workplace conflicts may involve two or more disputants who are working at the same or at differing hierarchical levels. Whether the context is an independent business, an administrative team or department, a non-governmental organization, a doctor’s office or a law firm, the issues most commonly dealt with in mediation are flow of information, division of tasks, communication, decision-making, use of resources such as time and money and leadership style. Intercultural conflicts sometimes present a particular challenge, as unspoken expectations, differing internalized values or undetected misunderstandings may lead to tension and conflict.

Since each individual has their own conflict socialization and conflicts are dealt with differently in different countries and cultures, it is not always easy to define the conflict, much less solve it. Here it can be helpful to employ the services of a neutral third party. Depending on how long the conflict has gone on, how many parties are involved and the degree of escalation, the mediation usually ends with an agreement. In some cases, the parties manage to create a new basis on which they can continue to work together, in others they decide to part ways in a balanced and fair manner.

Case study: Cooperative leadership
In one mediation two doctors were in disagreement as to whether or not they should employ an assistant who had just finished her training in their practice. Over the course of seven mediation sessions the parties discussed and came to an agreement on the following issues: differing leadership styles and needs, acting as a team, how to deal with difficult situations with their assistants, decision-making, communication and employment of the assistant. In a second round of mediation sessions, the doctors and their assistants spoke about trust, dealing with each other, respect and the conflict between the younger doctor and an older assistant. While it was not possible to clear up all the tension involved, the parties came to a deeper understanding of the dynamics of the conflict and were able to deal with each other more constructively than before the mediation.

INTERNATIONAL FAMILY MEDIATION

While I take on regular separation and divorce mediation cases, I am specialized in international or cross-border conflicts involving parents and children. As a rule, this involves families with differing cultural backgrounds or local families living abroad. I often work with couples whose common language is English or with bi-national English-German speaking couples. When the marriage comes to an end, one partner often wishes to return to his or her native country. This necessitates far-reaching decisions as to where the children should reside and how they can maintain contact with the other parent and that parent’s culture, should they live in different countries. One or both parents may feel threatened or afraid of losing their child. They may be considering or have already undertaken cross-border legal steps.

Other looming issues might be custody, child support, alimony, division of assets and divorce. Such highly escalated and highly complex conflict situations are often exacerbated by cultural differences in attitude and behavior, which may not have played a major role in the marriage. For these reasons, and in the interest of balanced impartiality, I usually work with a co-mediator. More often than not this will be a male German mediator with a law background. If the case involves the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or EU regulations, we work within a very tight timeframe, often tied to the pending hearing. Depending on the outcome of the mediation, an agreement may be reached on whether and how the child or children will be returned to their habitual country of residence and what actions the parents will take following the return.

Case study: Adam’s parents reach an agreement:
The highly complex and escalated nature of cross-border family mediation presents a particular challenge. Here is an example of a case that was successfully resolved before it ever went to court. Adam is two years old, the son of a German mother and an American father who live in California. After the breakdown of the marriage, Adam’s parents share childrearing but his mother is homesick. During a prolonged visit to Germany, she explores the possibility of settling again in her home country. Adam’s father feels threatened by this development, does not want to lose his son and is considering applying for a Hague Convention case. At the suggestion of their lawyers, Adam’s parents decide to try mediation. In the course of five sessions during two visits the father makes to Germany, Adam’s parents reach a mutual understanding on all key controversial issues and sign a legally-binding agreement.

    Click here to download article: An International Mediation

Dr. Jamie Walker
Mediation - Training - Consulting

info@jamiewalker.net