Despite its many benefits, mediation is sometimes not the right option for all parties. In particular, where there is a history of abuse or coercive behaviour, a client may not feel safe to be in the same room as their partner. In such circumstances, shuttle mediation may be a suitable alternative. Shuttle mediation can take place either in person or online, and involves the mediator meeting each party separately to discuss their issues and concerns. The mediator then ‘shuttles’ between the two to help them find a solution.
In a traditional face to face mediation, the mediator will ensure that both parties are heard and will not allow any bullying or name calling to take place. However, the nature of the situation can often be so emotionally charged that it is difficult to move forward and reach a settlement. Shuttle mediation allows each individual to be able to express their views without the distraction of the other party’s responses. In this way, it can be a much more productive process.
Shuttle mediation can also be a more effective approach for those who find it difficult to communicate effectively in the presence of negative emotions, such as fear or intimidation. In divorce and custody cases, this can be particularly helpful, as it enables spouses to set aside negative feelings about their former partner while communicating their all-important goals.
The process can also be used in business disputes to resolve contract issues and other matters that could otherwise lead to costly litigation. By using the mediator to go back and forth between the parties, they can work out revised terms that are mutually acceptable while avoiding the stress of court proceedings.
There are some practical limitations to shuttle mediation, including that the process takes longer than standard face to face mediation because all of the same steps (opening statements, setting the agenda and exploring the issues) need to be completed twice. The mediator also needs to make sure that all of the proposals put forward by each party are understood and conveyed clearly.
While shuttle mediation can be an excellent alternative for some, it is important to discuss it with your mediator at your MIAM appointment so that they are fully aware of all the arrangements that will be made – especially when it is to be used in situations involving domestic violence or IPV. It is vital that both parties are confident that the arrangement will provide them with the safety and protection they require.
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