The Role of Mediation & Collaborative Practice in Non-Spousal Family Disputes

Contrary to what many think, divorcing spouses are not the only individuals who can benefit from Mediation or Collaborative Practice (CP). Family disputes of any nature can often be resolved using these non-litigious, more affordable options.

Conflicts Between Adult Children and Parents

The relationship between children and parents takes many twists and turns throughout various life stages. The first big change often comes when children come of age and the parents begin to adjust to their children’s new independence, and later to an empty nest. As children form their own identities and families, parents often find their new role as a confidante or grandparent.

The parent-child relationship takes on another dimension as parents age and may begin to need extra care. This is where conflict can often come into the picture, and where family members may find the need to seek out Mediation or CP. The disputes can come in the form of elderly parents disagreeing with their adult children over their need for additional care, or due to children not agreeing with each other’s opinions of what should be done for Mom or Dad. A parent may now live alone and be falling or forgetting things more often, but does not yet feel ready to give up his or her remaining independence, while the children may worry constantly over his or her wellbeing. One child may live close to the parent(s) and see first-hand what the reality of the situation is, but cannot convince the siblings living farther away that this is the case.

Either way, it can often be very beneficial to get an outsider’s perspective of the situation. Emotions can run high when it comes to family situations and decisions, and it is often wise to get someone involved who does not have the same emotional connection or hot buttons.

Conflicts Between Siblings

Family disputes involving siblings can be tricky because they often bring childhood rivalries back to the surface. Personality conflicts or jealousies that happened as children manifest themselves in similar ways through the adult conflicts. This is why a Mediator or CP professional can be so helpful in offering insight from someone not caught up in the family dynamics.

Sibling conflicts often stem from inheritance issues. A classic example would be the family cottage or vacation home that the parents left to their children (or that parents and their siblings left to be shared among cousins). As adult siblings or cousins begin to manage the property, they can run into issues over the costs of upkeep or ownership responsibilities, especially if some family members live closer to the property than others. One person might resent the fact that s/he is always the one who has to call the plumber, for example. Another struggle might be who gets to use the home and when. This becomes more complicated as more individuals or families are involved. Even close-knit families can begin to experience strain over time with these kinds of challenges and can benefit from Mediation or CP.

Advantages of Mediation and Collaborative Practice in Family Disputes

Mediation is much more cost-effective than a lawsuit, and is often much more affordable than people realize. While CP is a little more expensive than Mediation, it is still cheaper than litigation, and is often a better option than Mediation when other professionals (such as CPAs, medical professionals, estate attorneys, etc.) need to weigh in on the situation.

Mediation and CP give families their best chance of preserving both their relationships and their assets. Whether the family issue is meeting physical needs of various members or dividing assets, these methods of conflict resolution encourage healthy dialogue between family members, enabling them to determine effective solutions among themselves rather than having to submit to orders from a Judge.

If you would like to find out more about how Mediation or CP can help in your family situation, email me at