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Divorce Mediation - International And Cultural Perspectives On Mediation

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Divorce mediation is an international means of conflict resolution. For example, divorce mediation studies have been conducted in Australia (McIntosh 2000), England (Dingwall, Greatbatch, and Ruggerone 1998) Norway (Tjersland 1999), and Scotland (Mackay and Brown 1999). These studies all address aspects of mediation that also challenge mediators in the United States. The impact of custody decisions on children's mental health, the structure and effectiveness of mandatory divorce mediation, mediator competence, the influence of gender on the mediation process, and mediation models are issues equally relevant on an international level. However, perspectives on mediation unique to a given country are also present. For example, in Australia concern has been given to the relevance of Western-based models of mediation. In Scotland, where the legal system is separate from the UK-based umbrella organization, over-seeing mediation in Scotland challenges the coordination of services. Studies have focused on cultural issues (e.g., value incongruence between mediation models and mediation participants of Asian descent) and the lack of relevant research on mediation with specific ethnic populations (e.g., Hispanic, African-American, Asian) (Molina 1999; Wong 1995). International research requires development on methodological as well as on cultural fronts (Beck and Sales 2001).

New mediation models are also being developed internationally. Canada, for example, has seen the development and increased use of what has been referred to as collaborative divorce or collaborative family practice (Sacks 2000). In short, these models discard the adversarial stance of most mediation models in favor of a model that emphasizes win-win solutions, a both/and perspective on parties' interests, difference in perceptions over right or wrong perceptions, empathic responses over defensive or aggressive ones, curiosity and compassion over judgment and blame, both parties against a problem over both parties against one another, and empowerment over domination. These premises are highlighted in a process that involves an interdisciplinary team. Such teams may be comprised of the relevant parties, lawyers, a divorce coach (i.e., facilitating understanding of and movement through the divorce process), a child specialist (i.e., speaking as a voice for the needs of children involved), and a financial specialist (i.e., providing budgetary and financial assistance). The collaborative model is well received in Canada as it has been experienced as healthier than other models (MacDonald 2000). At the beginning of the twenty-first century, those involved in divorce mediation are beginning to emphasize the creation of healthy relationships and not simply a resolution of some conflict as the outcome of divorce mediation.

Bibliography

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Beck, C. J. A., and Sales, B. D. (2001). Family Mediation: Facts, Myths, and Future Prospects. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Beck, P., and Biank, N. (1997a). "Enhancing Therapeutic Intervention during Divorce." Journal of Analytic Social Work 4:63–81.

Beck, P., and Biank, N. (1997b). "Broadening the Scope of Mediation to Meet the Needs of Children." Mediation Quarterly 14:179–199.

Black, M., and Joffee, W. (1978). "A Lawyer/Therapist Team Approach to Divorce." Concilliation and Courts Review 16:1–5.

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Dingwall, R.; Greatbatch, D.; and Ruggerone, L. (1998). "Gender and Interaction in Divorce Mediation." Mediation Quarterly 15:277–287.

Ellis, D. and Wight, L. (1998) "Theorizing Power in Divorce Negotiations: Implications for Practice." Mediation Quarterly 15:227–244.

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Menin, B. (2000). "The Party of the Last Part: Ethical and Process Implications for Children in Mediation." Mediation Quarterly 17:281–293.

Molina, O. (1999). "The Effects of Divorce on African American Working Women." Journal of Divorce and Remarriage 32:1–15.

Pearson, J. (1997). "Mediating When Domestic Violence Is a Factor: Policies and Practices in Court-Based Mediation Programs." Mediation Quarterly 14: 319–335.

Phillips, B. (1999). "Reformulating Dispute Narratives through Active Listening." Mediation Quarterly 17: 161–168.

Regina, W. (2000). "Bowen Systems Theory and Mediation." Mediation Quarterly 18:1–11.

Retzinger, S., and Scheff, T. (2000). "Emotion, Alienation, and Narratives: Resolving Intractable Conflict." Mediation Quarterly 18 (1):71–85.

Schneider, C. D. (2000). "What It Means to Be Sorry: The Power of Apology in Mediation." Mediation Quarterly 17:265–279.

Schwebel, A. I., Gately, D. W., Renner, M. A., and Milburn, T. W. (1994). "Divorce Mediation: Four Models and Their Assumptions about Change in Parties' Positions." Mediation Quarterly 11: 211–227.

Tjersland, O. A. (1999). "Evaluation of Mediation and Parental Cooperation Based on Observations and Interviews with the Clients of a Mediation Project." Mediation Quarterly 16:407–423.

Twaite, J. A., Keiser, S., and Luchow, A. "Divorce Mediation: Promises, Criticisms, Achievements, and Current Challenges." Journal of Psychiatry and Law 26: 353–381

Twaite, J. A., and Luchow, A. (1996). "Custodial Arrangments and Parental Conflict following Divorce: The Impact on Children's Adjustment." Journal of Psychiatry and the Law 24:53–75.

Winslade, J., and Cotter, A. (1997). "Moving from Problem Solving to Narrative Approaches in Mediation." In Narrative Therapy in Practice: The Archaeology of Hope, ed. G. Monk, J. Winslade, K. Crocket, and D. Epston. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Wong, R. R. (1995). "Divorce Mediation among Asian Americans: Bargaining in the Shadow of Diversity." Mediation Quarterly 33:110–128.

Other Resources

MacDonald, J. C. (2000). "Collaborative Family Practice: A New Approach." Joel Miller's Family Law Centre. Available at: www.familylawcentre.com/macdonald.html.

Sacks, M. (2000). "Collaborative Divorce and Separation." Available at: www.collaborativedivorce.ca/intro.html.

DAVID M. KLEIST

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