Twenty plus years ago when I was first exposed to mediation as a means to resolve disputes the practice was limited almost exclusively to resolving disputes within the judicial system. Pending lawsuits or threatened lawsuits seemed to be the only use we could imagine at the time for mediation. Resolving disputes that are within the judicial system is still firmly entrenched in the practice of most mediators but the efficacy of mediation has caused society to expand it’s collective imagination far beyond that limited boundary. Presently, it seems the use of mediation as a means to resolve disputes is nearly limitless. Disputes outside the court system are increasingly (and successfully) handled through the mediation process.

Possibly the best example of this involves issues commonly faced by families involving the elderly: estate planning and distribution, financial independence, guardianships, long term care and other related issues. These issues are now regularly being resolved through mediation rather than costly and protracted family fights. Mediation in this setting provides a safe place for family members to find solutions that all can live with and allows for the exercise of the very hallmarks of mediation: self-determination and confidentiality. Pilot programs currently exist in several states that are dealing with this very issue:

While South Dakota is not one of the pilot states at this time mediation can still be used to deal with these difficult issues between family members.

For similar reasons, mediation is also being used on a regular basis to handle issues pertaining to special education disputes between parents, teachers and administrators; to handle disputes between neighbors; issues that are presented to homeowner’s associations, Better Business Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce; workplace disputes between employers and employees; and a multitude of disputes involving organizations of all types. It is an exciting time to be a mediator as the possibilities for mediation are unlimited.

Corey Denevan and I would be happy to discuss with any of you any of the issues addressed in this blog. Please do not hesitate to contact us for your mediation needs.