Mediation helps keep family disputes private.
In the mediation of real property disputes among family members, I sometimes learn of the participants’ intense dislike and distrust of one another. I hear abusive even venomous language to express blame or criticism or just plain bitterness and ill will.
Usually these mediations involve the disposition of family real property in a lawsuit “to partition” the property, i.e., to sell it and divide the proceeds (if any sale proceeds remain after the costs and expenses of litigating the dispute); and usually the vitriol has to do with family issues that go way beyond the simple disposition of inherited property.
Not so surprisingly the family’s emotional dynamics blind the participants to the pragmatic approaches their lawyers would like to bring to the mediation to resolve the property issues.
Sometimes, suggesting that the mediation is a private place to work things out helps.
I like to remind people in mediation that, if not settled, their dispute will go to trial in a very public forum. I ask them if they really want to “hang out their dirty laundry” in public. I ask them if they want to display their family issues like some do on TV in front of Judge Judy and similar “Judicial Officers.” For some in the courtroom, it might be entertaining, for others displeasing to say the least. For the disputants, ultimately it could be embarrassing.
Some, so blinded by the emotion, say they don’t care. Others pause, think about it, and begin to realize that they ARE better off grappling with and getting past these issues, if possible, in private.
The brave ones who deal with their emotions, put them in check or really work through them, are more likely to utilize mediation productively, succeed in resolution and avoid the public trial. But getting there is a struggle nevertheless.