John and Linda and their 3 children have been sheltering in place in their 2000 square foot home for over 4 weeks. Tempers have begun to fray. The children have started to act up causing Linda to spank their son out of frustration when she used to administer “time outs.” In an argument over whether to have a small neighborhood gathering, Linda called John as bad name and John retaliated by pushing Linda against the wall.
Pete and Sam have been partners in a retail clothing store. The store has been completely closed for 3 weeks and both partners have been staying at home. Sam wants to get a job as a clothing sales rep (if he can get one) and wants Pete to buy out his interest in the store. Pete says the future of the store is uncertain and he is running out of savings. These partners and life-long friends have stopped speaking.
Barbara is a word processor with an insurance company and she has been furloughed with no pay. Neither her Federal relief check nor unemployment benefits have arrived. Her credit cards are maxed out and she has $500 in the bank. The rent on her one-bedroom apartment is $1000 per month and her landlord refuses to give her an extension to pay. Barbara does not know what to do.
These people are only a few examples of those who are faced with conflict and tough personal, legal and financial decisions. At the same time, they are frightened for their current and future health.
While there are no easy answer or remedy for family conflict, financial desperation, or business slowdown, these are the issues that mediators deal with every day. As their own practices slow down, many mediators are volunteering to offer free consultations and negotiation sessions to try and find solutions and some emotional comfort for people who are riddled with anxiety and a lack of knowledge. Other mediators are offering help to First Responders and Essential Workers on a pro bono basis. All of this help is currently available through telephone and video-conferencing so that you do need to never have to leave your home.
Just as patients with symptoms visit urgent care or emergency rooms, mediators are the urgent care for family and business relationships and diagnosis and prevention of financial and legal problems. Many mediators offer unbundled services which offers some assistance but you do most of the work yourself. Mediators often work in interdisciplinary teams so that you can get help from a combined legal-financial-and relationship perspective.
Since the mediation services will be provided remotely during this pandemic time period, it may not matter how far the mediator is from your home. Even if your problem is not fully solved after a consultation or meeting with a mediator, you may have much more information as to next steps that you can take. Information is power and comforting—as is the emotional support that these peacemaking professionals will provide at no cost during these challenging days.
Forest (Woody) Mosten has been in private practice as a mediator since 1979 is with offices in San Diego and Los Angeles. He is Adjunct Professor at UCLA School of Law where he teaches Mediation, Family Law Practice, and Lawyer as Peacemaker. He and has been in private practice as a mediator since 1979. Woody is tThe author of six four books and numerous articles on mediation, collaborative law, legal access, and building a peacemaking career, Woody served as convener for the 1999 international symposium, Training Mediators for the 21st Century. He has been Guest Editor for the Family Court Review’s special issues 4 times, most recently for the July 2015 issue on Peacemaking for Divorcing Families. Woody trains mediators, collaborative professionals, and lawyers in conflict resolution courses ranging from basic to master classes and keynotes conferences throughout the world. In 2019 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Professional Family Mediators and in 2020, the Southern California Mediation Association established the Forrest Mosten Star Award for Excellence and Innovation in Mediation. Woody can be reached at www.MostenMediation.com.