What is mediation?
- In a private setting, a mediator (or neutral person) helps the parties define the issues, generate options and come to a mutually acceptable agreement regarding their dispute. These meetings are held between the mediator and the parties. Sometimes the parties will have their attorneys present. In general, no witnesses or other third parties are present.
- Each party tells their story, what they would like to achieve, and why, and the mediator helps everyone generate options that may lead to a resolution. The mediator is not a judge, and does not decide who is "right," nor does a mediator take anyone's "side." The parties themselves make the choices that lead to a mutually satisfactory settlement. And when parties agree on an acceptable option, the terms are written up into an agreement.
- Mediators control the process, not the parties or the outcome. They remain neutral, and do not advocate for a party or take sides. Mediators facilitate voluntary agreements, and do not make decisions for the parties. Mediators listen and ask questions, but do not receive testimony or cross-examine parties. They maintain confidentiality, and do not testify in court on behalf of any parties. Most importantly, mediators foster cooperative, interest-based problem solving, while avoiding traditional adversarial approaches.
What types of cases is Katherine Henry trained to mediate?
- General Civil
- Domestic Relations
- Restorative Practices
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Special Education Mediation
- Matters involving bankruptcy
- Adult Guardianship Mediation
- Child Protection Mediation
How does it work?
- The mediator will greet all parties and make the necessary introductions to begin the process.
- In her opening statement, the mediator will explain the mediation process, her role as mediator, ground rules, confidentiality, and the Mediation Consent Form.
- Each party will have an opportunity to discuss, without interruption, their perspective on the issues that have brought them to mediation. The mediator will summarize the information shared to make sure that each party's perspective is clearly understood.
- The mediator will then work with participants to define and clarify issues of concern, facilitate the negotiation process, and encourage direct communication between participants as much as possible.
- The mediator may meet with participants separately at some point during the process to discuss certain issues privately and confidentially. (Caucus).
- When the parties arrive at an agreement, the agreement is put in writing. The parties, their attorneys (if any), and the mediator then sign the agreement.
- If an agreement is not reached, the mediator will explore the need for additional settlement efforts, address any other legal/administrative matters that may be necessary as a result of the non-agreement, and conclude the mediation process.
- Or, in summary, the steps of mediation include: 1) introductory remarks, 2) statement of the problem(s) by the parties, 3) information gathering time, 4) generating options, and 5) reaching an agreement.
What types of disputes can be mediated?
Mediation is an appropriate dispute resolution option for almost any type of dispute, such as:
- Small Claims Cases, like Quality of Workmanship disputes, Professional / Client Disputes, Auto Accident Property Damage Claims, Contract Disputes, Personal Loans / Uncollected Debt, and Personal Property Disputes.
- Landlord / Tenant Disputes regarding: leases, security deposits, rent, property damage, evictions, pets, parking, occupants, maintenance, etc.
- General Civil Litigation for Contract Disputes, Personal Injury Claims, Insurance Disputes, Employment Disputes, and Property (Real and Personal) disputes.
- Domestic Relations Matters, like family disputes, custody disputes, parenting time disputes, divorce, or other parent/child issues.
- Probate Matters involving Guardianship Disputes (Adult & Juvenile), Caregiver Matters, or Disputes over Wills, Trusts, and Estates.
- Community Disputes such as Neighborhood Disputes, Property Line Disputes, Property Damage / Maintenance, Noise Complaints, Vandalism, Animal/Pet Complaints, Harassment, and Social/Community Issues.
- Discrimination Claims
- Educational / School Issues including Special Education Complaints, and IEP Disputes.
- Agriculture and Rural Development Issues
When can mediation be used?
- Mediation can be used either before a case has been filed in court, or after. Due to the high success rates of mediation, when it is used before a court case has been filed, it tends to negate the need or desire for either party to subsequently file a case in court in the matter.
- Once a court case has been filed, participation in mediation may still be voluntary, or it may be court-ordered. Mediation works best when the parties involved agree to participate in good faith and believe that a mutually acceptable resolution can be accomplished with assistance from a neutral third-party. However, facilitative mediation is also extremely effective when participants are initially skeptical about the potential for resolution.
- In a domestic relations case, a Judge may order mediation under MCR 3.216. Although parties may be ordered to mediation by the Judge, parties may also elect to participate in mediation on their own accord. In most situations, mediation can be an effective tool in resolving the issues of a divorce case or other domestic relations case. However, if mediation is ordered in one of the limited situations where it is not appropriate, one of the parties must follow the procedures in MCR 3.216 (D) Objections to Referral to Mediation.
What are the benefits of mediation?
- It's Effective!
- Where mediation was used
- Nearly all mediated agreements are fulfilled by the parties. A 1999 SCAO study showed a voluntary compliance rate of 90% for mediated agreements vs. 53% for non-mediated judgments.
- Client surveys show that over 90% of mediation participants are satisfied with mediation - even if the case is not resolved at mediation (Kent County Survey of Mediation Participants, 2008).
- In all kinds of cases, mediation works because it brings all necessary parties to the bargaining table where they can "realistically" evaluate their positions and safely explore settlement options. It works in most cases in which it is utilized, including those where the parties have been unable or unwilling to negotiate, or have taken unrealistic positions.
- It's Confidential!
- Court hearings, Friend of the Court conciliations, and joint meetings are generally NOT confidential. However, with a few exceptions, parties can agree that anything said or done in mediation remains completely confidential. The mediator also keeps all communications confidential, and will not testify as to what was discussed in mediation. This allows parties the opportunity to negotiate freely and openly.
- It's Empowering!
- If parties go to trial, they are giving up total control of the outcome to a magistrate, judge, or jury, and neither party may like the outcome. Mediation lets parties retain control of their own dispute and it's outcome.
- With all types of cases, mediation can preserve or restore relationships by eliminating fundamental misunderstandings and by improving communication between parties. This is especially important for divorced parents, who will have to continue raising their children together.
- There is no stress of having to face a judge in a formal courtroom setting and talk about your personal financial issues and your personal family life.
- It's Quick!
- Mediation can take place right away. Mediation can usually take place as soon as the parties and their attorneys, if any, can agree on a date. Most sessions take just a few hours, but in complex cases and divorces, for example, it is not unusual for parties to meet over several sessions (typically 1-4).
- In a recent study, it was confirmed that case dispositions occurred more quickly through mediation; see the online hand-out by Michigan's State Court Administrative Office - Effectiveness of Case Evaluation and Mediation in Michigan Circuit Courts
- It's Flexible!
- Mediation can take place at any point in a conflict, for example, before filing a lawsuit, or in some instances, even after a trial. Most mediators advise persons to try mediation early in a dispute, before parties become firmly "locked" into their positions.
- Location for the mediation is flexible: lawyer conference rooms, hotels, airports, even homes!
- Relief is flexible and not limited to court imposed remedies.
- Although most are concluded in a single session, multiple mediation sessions are possible and can be scheduled at the convenience of the participants.
- It Saves Money!
- In a recent study, it was confirmed that mediation reduces costs to the court, and in over half (54%) of cases, it reduces litigation costs for parties; see the online hand-out by Michigan's State Court Administrative Office - Effectiveness of Case Evaluation and Mediation in Michigan Circuit Courts
- As reported by Michael Roberts in his article Why Mediation Works, "The high cost and long delays associated with the trial of civil matters often make litigation an impractical method of resolving disputes. It is not uncommon for the attorney's fees, expert witness fees, jury fees, court reporter fees and other related costs to exceed the amount in dispute." Therefore, it is often less costly for parties to mediate than to litigate their disputes.
How does mediation affect my legal rights?
- Merely attending mediation does not affect your legal rights. You should know your legal rights before attending mediation. Mediators do not offer legal advice, represent parties, or testify at any subsequent hearings that may result if you do not resolve your case in mediation. If you have questions about how a Mediation Agreement might affect your legal rights, you might want to seek the advice of an attorney.
Why pick Katherine Henry as a mediator?
- She is listed on the approved domestic relations mediator list and general civil mediator list in both Montcalm and Ionia counties.
- She strongly believes that the best resolution to a dispute is one that the parties have worked out themselves, not fought out in court.
- She has experience working on these issues from a variety of viewpoints - private attorney, Assistant Public Defender for the State of Minnesota, legal assistant, law clerk, Guardian ad Litem for Minnesota's Second Judicial District, volunteer at the New Orleans Legal Assistance Center, and lobbyist to the Minnesota State Legislature.
- She began working in the legal field over fifteen years ago, in 2001. In this time, Katherine has worked on hundreds of domestic relations and general civil cases.
- She received training in the areas of Civil Mediation, Family Mediation, Juvenile Court Guardian ad Litem, and Family Court Guardian ad Litem (all through the Supreme Court of Minnesota).
- She stays up-to-date on legal and mediation matters through Continuing Legal Education courses, Conferences, and Advanced Mediator Trainings.
- As an Assistant Public Defender, Katherine handled adult misdemeanor offenses, all juvenile delinquency matters, and child protection cases. In that role, Katherine attended numerous trainings, continuing legal education courses and group legal brainstorming sessions to enhance her understanding of the law and how best to serve clients.
- As a private attorney, Katherine has worked on a variety of cases, including, but not limited to, landlord-tenant, real estate, contract issues, and business matters. Katherine's specialty, however, was family law, bankruptcy, and estate planning.
Who would best benefit from our Mediation services? Someone who:
- Wants to temporarily separate from his/her spouse,
- Has a spouse seeking temporary separation from him/her,
- Is going through a divorce,
- Needs help resolving custody, parenting time, or property division issues,
- Has recently been sued in Small Claims Court, District Court, or Circuit Court,
- Is contemplating filing a lawsuit against someone in Small Claims Court, District Court, or Circuit Court,
- Is trying to collect an unpaid debt,
- Has a dispute over a contract,
- Has a dispute with someone over real estate or personal property,
- Has a dispute with a friend, relative, or neighbor, and/or
- Has a landlord/tenant dispute.
How do I begin the mediation process?
- Increasingly, judges are ordering litigants to participate in mediation as a way of resolving disputes more appropriately, quickly and affordably. If you have been court-ordered to participate in a mediation session, please refer to your court paperwork for specific information and requirements, and contact our office.
- If you have an attorney, let him or her know that you want to try mediation in your case. Feel free to give them this website link, or my name and phone number.
- If you do not have an attorney, go the Contact Us page, select Potential Mediation Client, and answer all of the questions, then click the Send Now button.
What information do you need from me or my attorney?
- Contact information for all people involved
- Details of the issue or problem
- If your case is in court, we will need:
- Court Date
- Court Case Number
- Court Name or Location