Family Mediation Donegal
It is an unfortunate fact that disputes and disagreements are part of life, and very few disputes can become as bitter as disputes amongst family members. They can arise from a multitude of reasons; sometimes the simplest of reasons and can seriously damage the strongest of family relationships. They have far-reaching consequences in that it is not unusual for the damage caused by bitterness and resentment to pass on to the next generation. Some issues are easily resolved but in many cases it requires the assistance of a third party.
Conflict can happen when family members have different views or beliefs that clash. Sometimes conflict can occur when people misunderstand each other and jump to the wrong conclusion.
It is normal to disagree with each other from time to time. Occasional conflict is part of family life. However, ongoing conflict without resolution can be stressful and damaging to long term relationships. It is often the case that people find it difficult to express their feelings and become intentionally hurtful, aggressive or sometimes even violent.
Family mediation is the negotiation process where people involved in a dispute come together to resolve their issues with the help of a neutral third party. A mediator’s job is to help both parties determine their issues, find common ground and work out a mutual agreement. They will not tell the parties what agreement should be made or offer any legal advice. The family mediation process can take place either face to face in a neutral environment, in separate rooms with the mediator travelling between the two parties (shuttle mediation) or over a telephone conference call. There are many benefits to family mediation:
- It is efficient – a dispute can usually settle relatively quickly.
- It helps to preserve relationships unlike court proceedings which can take years of litigation which can destroy family relationships,
- Tries to find common ground and solutions that suit both parties.
- It is informal – unlike the court procedure, family mediation is an informal process that does not require a solicitor
- It is flexible – and unlike a court case both parties have more say in the negotiations, and more control over the results.
- It is affordable – costs are significantly lower than litigation.
It is confidential – court cases are public, whereas mediation is typically confidential. Information revealed during this process cannot be used later in a trial or judicial proceeding.
When the mediator is appointed, they will contact each of the participants individually in a pre-mediation session to explain the process and to get an overview of the issues. The mediator will request the parties sign up to a Mediation Agreement. This explains the mediation process, as well as setting out that all discussions are totally confidential, are treated as without prejudice and are in a genuine attempt to settle the dispute. This means that anything discussed during the mediation cannot then be used as evidence in any future legal proceedings.
The mediation joint session usually takes place off-site at a neutral venue and with the mediator and all the parties present. A virtual service is also offered if parties cannot attend for healthcare or other reasons if this is suitable to the dispute itself.
During the mediation a separate room can be made available to allow the participants an opportunity to talk privately with the mediator, themselves, or their legal representatives. All information given to the mediator during the mediation’s separate discussions will be kept confidential, unless express permission is given to offer it in the interest of progress.
The mediator often goes back and forth between the parties to seek an agreement between both sides before bringing both parties back together.
What is it? More and more of us are living longer and as a result we and our families are faced with additional issues and problems to be discussed and resolved. Issues surrounding older members of families are difficult to speak about and can remain an ongoing problem. As we age things can become difficult for the older person and issues dealing with interpersonal problems as well as psychical, legal and financial problems can sometimes arise. With the help of a trained mediator these issues can be discussed and the challenges about the care and future of the older person met and dealt with and always by decisions made by the participants themselves to suit their own needs. In elder mediation the mediator supports individuals as well as their families, friends and carers in having discussions and making decisions which are beneficial to all parties.
The emphasis is on the quality of life of the older person. It can be a hard time when parents or grandparents feel they might need intervention to step in and help with future decisions and often elder mediation is the ideal way to approach the problem. Elder mediation enables individuals and their families to have important conversations and make decisions that reflect the needs of all, with an emphasis on the quality of life on all the participants involved. It is a collaborative process and can include professionals such as hospital staff nursing home or care representatives in addition to the families if the older person needs extra psychical care.
The mediation works by involving as many people as is necessary to explore the issues in a safe, informal, flexible and confidential environment. It is often the case that surprising innovative solutions emerge from the participants based on creative engagement and consensus. This often stems from the informal and flexible nature of the process itself which lends itself to the finding of solutions for the requirements of each unique situation or family. Some examples of issues which have been discussed in elder Mediation are as follows:
- Living arrangements
- Continuing and long term care and healthcare planning
- Financial management
- Consumer issues
- Wills and probate management
- Relationship concerns
- Social and community activities
- Powers of attorney
As can be seen serious decisions are being made in the above list and the one of the benefits of Mediation lies in its flexible nature. Before any decisions are made the participants are free to access expert, legal, healthcare, or other advice before any decisions are made. Any decisions made are made to suit the particular circumstances of each family.
Family farm disputes
Farming is a full-time profession dictated by the demands of seasonal change, weather, prices, animal needs and health, the marketplace, regulation and harvesting pressures. There are countless factors affecting the welfare and outlook of a family farm business. The farm of today is like a complex and well-regulated business involving many commercial and business transactions and relationships in addition to the traditional family relationships.
These family and business relationships can give rise to problems and disputes. Most of these are sorted out by direct discussions and negotiations but some are allowed to fester and damage family relationships. These disputes can sometimes end up in court. This is a costly process and a lengthy one and the issues are discussed in a public forum. Mediation offers a less expensive flexible informal alternative to dispute resolution.
Some of the more common mediation cases involving farming:
• Inheritance issues, family home, – promises made etc.
• Marriage breaks down —legal entitlements without breaking up the farm.
• New status quo when new spouse/partner moves in.
• Serious illness and inability to manage -who farms and who is the carer.
• Death of a parent and the living arrangements for the surviving spouse.
• Disputes with contractors.
• Disputes over payment for produce.
• Land disputes and rights of way
• Disputes with neighbours over stock property or nuisance.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I broach the topic of elder mediation?
If the situation arises that Mediation is being contemplated then it means in general that people are prepared to start to think about possible solutions. Mediation is often broached by one person to another by referring to it in conversation or referring to various websites. By referring a person to this website it gives an introductory look at the subject and may encourage someone to give it a try. Information can be either obtained by reading the website or in addition the reader is given the opportunity to submit a question either on the website itself or by email. The mediator is also glad to be of any assistance to people if they wish to give a quick ring to clear any matter up. When the matter is brought up the person can be asked if they might be willing to give it a try. There is nothing to be lost and possibly a good deal to be gained, including peace of mind.
Will I keep my Independence?
Yes. The benefit of mediation lies in its nature. It is an informal flexible and confidential process which the participants enter freely and without pressure. The participants are free to leave at any time if they feel they want to do so. It is not a legal process and all decisions or agreements are only made with the full acceptance of everyone involved. The emphasis on elder mediation is always on the best interest of the older person. The older person is in full control of their own life and decisions are made not just their needs but also their values and personal preferences.
Can the other side bully me into a settlement?
The emphasis in elder mediation is on the interests of the older person. The mediator will manage the process, ensuring everyone gets the opportunity to speak, and that everybody behaves respectfully. The mediator will be impartial, but will be careful to ensure the equality of each participant and can end a meeting if it is no longer constructive. This sometimes happens if the mediator detects a serious power imbalance or if the participants fail to treat each other consistently in a respectful and safe manner. If after a warning it is s felt that one party is exerting undue influence or bullying the other party the mediator will bring the proceedings to a halt.
Is any agreement legally binding?
Only if both parties want it to be binding. An agreement during mediation is called a Mediation Settlement and can either be verbal or in writing. The law states that the settlement will be binding unless the parties state they do not want it binding. The mediator will be careful to advise the parties on this before the mediation ends. Some Mediation Settlements are not legally binding and depending on the nature of the dispute some are made legally binding. In some cases participants seek legal advice before making the settlement binding or else incorporate it into a legally binding document afterwards, which is enforceable in the Courts.
Is the Mediator a trained professional?
Yes. Mediators who are approved members of the Mediators Institute of Ireland (MII) have a high standard of specialist training and accreditation, in receipt of a current practicing certificate and are bound by a mediator’s code of ethics. They are required to engage in ongoing continuing professional development (CPD) in mediation and are subject to independent regulation. Their members and their specialities can be checked on themii.ie website.