What Is Co-Mediation, And When Should It Be Used?

February 2, 2009

Co-mediation is a mediation that uses two mediators. The mediators work as a team to assist the parties in resolving their conflict. Co-mediation is beneficial in a number of situations.

In complex mediations, sometimes two heads are better than one. One mediator can, for example, take notes and observe while the other mediator asks questions. Or, one mediator can focus on the details, while the other focuses on the big picture.

Having two mediators who can divide tasks may also accelerate the process. For example, each mediator can caucus (meet individually) with one of the participants at the same time, making the mediation more efficient.

Two mediators may also be beneficial when the mediators have varying skills. For example, the participants may want one mediator who is an expert in one particular field and another mediator that is an expert in a different field.

In mediations with many participants, two mediators provide more attention to each individual. As a result, the participants may experience a greater feeling of being heard. Further a participant is more likely to develop trust with at least one of the mediators. It is important, however, to make sure that the participants do not feel that one of the mediators is “their” mediator and biased in their favor.

Sometimes, to feel comfortable, participants need their differing ethnicities, genders or ages represented in the mediators. For example, in family law mediations, it sometimes makes the participants more comfortable to have mediators of both genders present. A male participant may otherwise feel that a female mediator would favor his wife, or vis versa. In a mediation involving discrimination issues, it may make a difference to have mediators of different races or ages. Two mediators with different language skills are also helpful when the participants speak two or more different languages.

With co-mediation, the mediators can model good problem solving for the participants as well. Co-mediation is also used to train less experienced mediators.

For co-mediation to work, the mediators have to know how to work together and plan the mediation and their respective roles carefully. Otherwise, two mediators could create distractions that make resolution less likely.

Some people are concerned that co-mediation costs more than single-mediator mediations. It may not cost more if co-mediation in fact results in the mediation being more efficient and less time consuming. Further, if co-mediation is what is needed to resolve the matter, then it is worth the cost.

Alona M. Gottfried is a mediator and attorney who co-mediates upon request with Jared C. Simmons, Esq. She can be reached at 480-998-1500 or Alona@SGLawAZ.com.

One Response to “What Is Co-Mediation, And When Should It Be Used?”

  1. pllatreille Says:

    Hi Alona

    Found this a very insightful and interesting post, and a clear and succinct statement of a number of the important reasons why co-mediation may be helfpul. You might also include benefits in terms of gaining experience more rapdily and ensuring their skills don’t atrophy, as in many organisations the numbers of cases are relatively modest and so mediators might find their opportunities to use, develop and maintain their skills are correspondingly limited. There’s also a further benefit in that by virtue of its confidentiality, it’s often difficult for solo mediators to get feedback or to be supported following especially emotional mediations. Co-mediation in contrast, allows for both of these without any breach of confidentiality.

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