Robert and Denise are going through a very difficult time and it seems clear that intervention is needed. Of all the methods of ADR, facilitative mediation seems to be the most appropriate course of action. Through mediation, Robert and Denise will be helped to communicate effectively and slowly work through their various issues. Whether or not the couple reconcile their marriage, they are likely to have to remain in contact for the sake of their children. Therefore, they will need to find a way of communicating with each other in the long run, and mediation will be a valuable first step in establishing this.
Robert really has the majority of the power in this situation. Denise has given up her career, and her income, in order to raise Robert’s children and, therefore, she is completely reliant on him, financially (Wilmott & Hocker, 2011, p.108). Denise feels helpless and like she has been too dependent on her parents. Understandably, she wants to stop doing this and endeavor to support herself and her children. A large part of the conflict between Robert and Denise concerns their son, Arnie, and his difficult behavior. As Arnie’s teacher agrees with Robert that a lack of discipline is the root of his problems. Yet again, Robert has the power in this conflict; he has support in his views, and Denise is accused of being an ineffective parent. Whether or not Robert and Denise wish to work on their marriage and get back together, it seems clear that they will need some kind of conflict intervention if they are to form an amicable relationship for the sake of the children, and to decide how best to proceed with their situation.
Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR, can be used to assist in many different conflicts. According to Laurie Coltri in Alternative Dispute Resolution, “Cooperative approaches to conflict also tend to preserve personal relationships more effectively than competitive approaches” (Coltri, 2010: p. 45).
Given Robert and Denise’s situation, mediation may be a good ADR option for them. Laurie Coltri defines mediation as: “a type of assisted negotiation that uses a third party (or panel of third parties) to help disputants negotiate their settlement. This third party, who is called the mediator, is typically impartial with respect to the disputants and neutral as to the settlement reached” (Coltri, 2010: p. 58).
Mediation differs from some other forms of ADR, like arbitration for example, as at the end of mediation a decision is not necessarily reached. In arbitration, the neutral person will issue a decision following the process, but mediation is not like this. Furthermore, the disputants have the power to make decisions in mediation, unlike some other types of ADR, and if a decision is made, however small, this is often written down (Cotri, 20110: p. 58). Often in mediation there several issues that need to be resolved, even though they may all be part of the same overall conflict between the people.
Mediation is used all around the world, as far apart as Europe, the US and Africa. It is a recognised and valued form of ADR and is used routinely in marital disputes, business conflicts, and even crime (Coltri, 2010: p64). For example, an offender may meet with his victim and the two of them can discuss, with the help of a neutral mediator, the effect the crime had on them both.
There are various different types of mediation but, for Robert and Denise, Facilitative Mediation seems to be the most appropriate. In facilitative mediation, the mediator’s task is to help the couple to communicate and negotiate in an effective manner. The mediator working with Robert and Denise may well set rules that he believes will help them to communicate in a healthier and more productive way. He will also lead the discussion, probably using an agenda, to prevent either party from going off subject or pursuing circular conversations or arguments. Furthermore, if Robert and Denise were to start communicating in a way that was not effective, the mediator is likely to intervene and attempt to help the couple rectify the situation (Coltri, 2010: p 60).
The mediator is very much a neutral party, as with other forms of ADR. They are professionally bound to not judge and not to take sides within a dispute. Furthermore, the mediator is not supposed to offer personal opinion about the situations. In Robert and Denise’s case, for example, the mediator is unlikely offer an opinion on whether Arnie’s behaviour is caused by a neurological disorder or whether it is caused by a lack of discipline in the home. Instead, the mediator will lead a conversation between Robert and Denise, encouraging them to discuss Arnie’s behaviour and possible methods of diagnosing the problem once and for all.
Using facilitative mediation, rather than evaluative mediation, for Robert and Denise’s situation, may be considered by some to be one dimensional and limiting. However, as Robert and Denise have children together and, whatever happens, are likely to have to be part of each other’s lives for many years to come, facilitating them in communication seems the most sensible option. This is particularly true if the couple are to try and reconcile their marriage.
Robert and Denise need to discuss their financial situation. As Robert has left the family home, Denise is worried about how she is going to support herself and her children. As emotions are extremely charged at this difficult time, a mediator is likely to make it easier for the couple to talk through the issues and to make plans for the future. In the current situation, it appears that Robert holds most of the power in the relationship and the overall conflict. This is made even more prominent by his choice to leave the family. His doing this could be seen as a display of power on his part, as he is making it clear to Denise that he can and will do as he sees fit.
Overall, facilitative mediation appears to be the most promising option for Robert and Denise. They have many separate issues to work through, which are all part of the same overall conflict. A neutral mediator, who is knowledgeable and experienced in helping people to communicate and resolve matters effectively, will provide the couple with a safe and supportive environment in which to start really talking to each other.
Coltri, L. S. (2010). Alternative Dispute Resolution: A Conflict Diagnosis Approach.
Boston, MA: Prentice Hall Publishing
Wilmott, W. W. & Hocker, J. L. (2011). Interpersonal Conflict. New York, NY: McGraw-