by Merri Hanson Eckles



Couple abdicates decision-making to lawyer or judge

Couple take responsibility for own decisions

Communication between two people is discouraged.

Communication is the basis on which decisions are made.

Settlement may be imposed by judge.

Couple designs their own settlement with aid of the mediator.

Lack of commitment to results because of lack of participation.

Strong commitment to results because of active participation in agreement.

Children suffer adverse effects of battles between the parents.

Children's benefit is prime focus of mediation. Good relationship between parents fosters positive adjustment by children.

Children may be used as pawns to gain concessions from other side. Confrontation, bitterness, and hostility are fostered.

The structure of mediation prevents the children from being used as pawns.

Dissatisfaction with agreement or court-ordered settlement is likely to lead to increased litigation.

Satisfaction with mutually achieved agreement decreases need for future legal confrontation.

No new negotiation, communication, or problem-solving skills are learned.

Problem-solving, negotiation, and improved communication skills are learned.

Unknown length of time for the process; the potential for lingering battles.

Structured sessions and planned agenda, plus established time frame for reaching agreement.

Can be very costly, depending on how long and complex the process is.

Can cost far less than contested cases because of set time frame and, usually, lack of need for litigation.

Power is an important tool, both in hands of participants and attorneys.

Power, as a force in decision-making, is virtually eliminated since parties must deal as equals.


Ms. Hanson Eckles is Co-Director of the Peninsula Mediation Center in Hampton/Newport News, Virginia. She is a Virginia certified mediator, a member of the Supreme Court of Virginia Dispute Resolution Services Advisory Council, and a practitioner member of the Academy of Family Mediators. ln addition, Ms. Hanson Eckles holds membership in the Society for Professionals in Dispute Resolution, the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, the Virginia Mediation Network, the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC), Virginians Against Domestic Violence, and currently serves on the Senate Joint Resolution Committee to Study Courtroom Environments for Child Witnesses.


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