Is Mediation an Art or a Science?/Martin Rosenfeld,JD

Posted on October 15, 2014


I recently read a post which described what a divorce mediator does. The author opined that the first session regarding divorce agreements would be dedicated to parental issues, the second session to financial issues, etc. When I read this post, it struck me that I have no such pattern. I simply try to go from simple to complex. The input of the parties guides my decision regarding how I will structure the sessions. In simple terms, different mediators will have different styles and different ways of going about their work. Viva la difference.

There has been a question whether mediation is a science or an art. If it is science, it can be boiled down to hard and fast rules and applications. Of course, mediation is not a uniform system or one that lends itself to rule-making or universally shared principles. It is an art and one that is individually implemented based on mediator training, skills, goals, etc.

Having said this, I believe I can cite one rule of thumb that I heard from the Ann Arbor mediator, Attorney Zena Zumeta. Zena said that mediators often worry, early in their career, whether or not their limitations will prevent the parties from reaching an agreement. Zena gave an insight that is often (though certainly not always) true. “If the parties are motivated to reach an agreement, the worst mediator in the world will get them there. If they are not motivated to get to said agreement, the best mediator in the word will not get them there.” Mediation needs parties who take the process seriously. The mediator is an essential party, but little is more important than the will of the parties to get to Win-Win. The keys to may well be frank discussion, the ability to listen, and a modicum of respect for the other party.