Mediation and domestic violence

The issue of domestic violence and mediation is addressed in virtually all mediation books and training materials. In his book, Mediating Child Custody Disputes, Donald Saposnek highlights the vigorous debate on this issue. He lists the competing arguments:

Concerns of critics of mediation–power imbalance, unfairness, safety, coercion, intimidation.

Supporters of mediation–better than litigation when safety precautions used, screening, separate waiting rooms, separate arrival/departure times, use of caucus methods, presence of support persons, safe terminations, trained and skilled mediators.

In his book, The Fundamentals of Family Mediation, John Haynes rejects a blanket prohibition (excerpt):
I reject the argument that abused women are not entitled to mediate because I believe that mediation gives all clients more control, and certainly an abused spouse needs all means to gain control over her own life. There is no evidence that the legal route provides any better control for the abused spouse. She gives control of her case to her attorney and a county prosecutor who decide for her. She must still deal with all of her fears and aching desire to get the divorce over and done with as quickly as possible. Every person contemplating divorce must negotiate a separation agreement. That is a requirement the state places on every married couple. People should opt to negotiate the separation agreement as a free choice.

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