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Herston on Tennessee Family Law is a blog maintained with great care using clearly written case summaries by a local Knoxville attorney (who is also a mediator and a collaborative family attorney), K.O. Herston.  He reports some of the more interesting and important Tennessee appellate cases having to do with diverse family conflicts.  Reading about how courts decide family cases is an important and ongoing educational process for family mediators.  We know that mediators do not “advise” parties, and even though Rule 31 gives attorney mediators permission to vocalize opinions if competent to do so, we also realize that we risk our most necessary quality, the participants’ perception that we are impartial and on no one’s side, when we skate close to the place of saying “Here’s what I (the mediator) think.”  Still, it’s very helpful to know the way cases are decided so we as mediators can ask reality-checking questions and make sure that parties understand reality!

Attorneys who participate in mediation and help their client understand how the law affects them are worth their weight in gold to a mediator.   In the world of community mediation, its the norm for people to have no attorney at all or, at best, to have someone they might call if they “have to.”  Mediators handling cases as volunteers or pro bono for the courts must take pains to screen parties to see if they need legal advice.  All the more reason for community mediators to have an overview of family law outcomes to construct helpful BATNA/WATNAs (or BATMA/WATMAs) for their clients.

He also has a page of article links on divorce matters, including divorce mediation in Tennessee.

KO also posts his nature photography and helpful news articles on divorce, children, and best practices.  His blog was voted in the top 100 “blawgs” (law blogs) again this year, now two years in a row.

 

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One of the best online resources for mediators is the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution.

  1. National Clearinghouse for Mediator Ethics Opinions  This link takes you to a compilation of mediator ethics opinions from 43 states.  Just click and search by key word or ethics principle, or browse by state. Confidentiality? Scribing? Termination? Here is a good place to begin after checking out your own state’s opinions. (Tennessee’s opinions are compiled here.)
  2. Committee on Mediator Ethical Guidance  The Committee receives ethical questions from anonymous mediators (many are attorneys, but not all) and writes Advisory Opinions for all to read.  Anyone, ABA member or not, can submit a question.  The opinions, numbered by date, are listed on the page—there’s only 17 of them—and are fun and educational to read in no particular order. (PDF format for download)

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One of the best books on the mediation experience—written for mediators about the process experience—is a collection of essays by mediators called “Bringing Peace Into the Room.”  (Daniel Bowling and Davide Hoffman, editors, John Wiley & Sons, 2003, 310 pp).  Through 13 chapters contributed by a roster of wise mediators, the book sheds light on how an individual mediator’s way of mediating can impact the experience of the disputants in the room.  It sounds obvious.  Yes, it matters what the mediator does and who she is.  Yet the analysis of what is hard to describe is fascinating.  It touches on the “heart of the mystery of mediation.”  (Thanks, Gary Friedman).  Examples of chapters:

  • Ken Cloke (one of my favorites, and the author of many books, including “Mediating Dangerously”) has written about “What are the personal qualities of a mediator?”  (He calls it their “presence”.)
  • Richard Benjamin from the Straus Institute has written a chapter called “Managing the natural energy of conflict: mediators, tricksters, and the constructive uses of deception.”  Wait, I thought mediators wanted to discourage deception and advocated transparency!  But what about the “tricks” involved in reframing, and structuring the process?  How does the mediator use methods to help, not trick, but still bust through boundaries?
  • Another mediator, Michelle LeBaron, has written about “Trickster, mediator’s friend”, describing mediators as boundary crossers, with a skill of “stepping over fences and deep trenches” in the conflict.  (She has written extensively on the design of the conflict resolution process and multiculturalism in mediation practice.)
  • Lois Gold, one of the founders of the Academy of Family Mediators,  has written, “Mediation and the culture of healing,” bringing in the topic of spirit, higher consciousness, and relational fields to help clients find their inner wisdom out of the conflict they are experiencing.  Again, the presence of the mediator is all important.
  • Long associated with the George Mason ICAR program, Sara Cobb wrote a chapter, “Creating sacred space: toward a second-generation dispute resolution practice.”

Reading this book, whether from cover to cover or piecemeal, is a delight, and offers beginners and experienced mediators an opportunity for self-reflection and discussion on how the neutral presence intentionally changes the conflict.  Examining this allows the practitioner to be more clear about what works and what doesn’t for that specific case.  What a good book for a mediator book group to take on! Highly recommended by Jackie.

P.S. Use Amazon Smile and donate to CMC while buying your books!