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The question of mediators talking to one party in the absence of the other can come up in a variety of contexts. This Blog discusses initial contacts from one party, often when they are simply seeking to learn about our services or other general information. We hope that this website can itself answer as many of your questions as possible, without the need for any direct contact outside of the mediation rooms between participants and mediators and before the Orientation or Initial Mediation Sessions. We are eager to talk to you both whenever we are all together!

At DFMS our mediators attempt to avoid speaking to either party directly outside the presence of the other. This includes what we call our "Intake Process." The only exceptions generally involve scheduling an Orientation Meeting, or when a client calls who happens to catch us answering a phone. Instead we attempt to filter your initial calls through our non-mediator resolution assistants.

If we do wind up speaking with you, please understand that we will decline to discuss your case, your position, the facts, your expectations, the other party, or anything that would tend to enlist us outside our positions of neutrality. We are not being rude.

I have been asked 'well, since you aren't deciding our cases or acting like a judge, what is wrong to talking to you outside the presence of the other party?' My answer is usually something lilke this: "If Jane was wanting to have this conversation with me, and asked I not tell you, Joe, about it or insisted that it didn't matter what we discussed, would the mediation process feel safe for you?" 

There are two aspects to this dilemma: (1) it is essential that your mediator actually be neutral and unbiased in order to protect the integrity of the process, and even seemingly innoncent conversations tend to create an unconscious bond between participants and (2) it is equally critical that there be no appearance of bias, meaning that certain boundaries must go into effect from the first communication so that both sides are convinced that the process is fair. 

However, this is not to say that you and the other mediators at DFMS, along with your spouse or partner, can't jointly decide to a different arrangement once the mediation process is underway if everybody - including your mediators - agree. However, this will be rare.

T.W. Arnold, DFMS Mediator


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