Mediator neutrality, and the two areas where I cannot remain neutral

March 2, 2017

Lady Justice

Another important aspect of the mediation process is the neutrality of the mediator.

In mediation, your mediator will not pick sides, or give legal advice to any of the parties. Instead, he or she will protect the parties in the process by maintaining neutrality so the conversations are even, everybody gets a voice, and information is brought to the surface for the parties to make good decisions together (and this is also why mediators avoid mediating conflicts with people they know well: it’s too difficult to be neutral when you know the parties who are in the conflict).

However, there are two things I’m not neutral about in mediation:

  1. If I am mediating a situation involving children, particularly in separation and divorce, I tell my clients right from the start that I’m not neutral about what’s right for the kids. Part of my training and what I bring to the process is information about what’s good for children, as their families are separating. So I will give advice on how to speak to the kids about what’s happening. I will help parents make good decisions about their parenting plan, so the children’s best interests are protected (also see One Question I Ask Parents Who Are Separating).
  2. The process: as a mediator, I am hired to lead parties through a process, and while I collaborate with them to do it in a way that works for all of them, the clients don’t dictate the process. Similar to my expertise about what’s good for children, my training and experience gives me the expertise to know how to lead the process well, and to know what will work in the big picture to resolve the conflict.

Neutrality is a vital aspect of my Mediation work. An impartial, objective middle ground is in fact a big reason people choose Mediation instead of going to their lawyers, or even in addition to lawyering up. Just because I don’t pick his side or her side, though, doesn’t mean I’m not choosing the side of the children, or a mediation process that works. In my experience, these neutrality overrides have served my clients, both sides, in the most effective long-term way I could conceive of.


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Photo Credit: Scott* Lady Justice via photopin (license)