By John C. Meehling   |   April 30th, 2011

bad_neighbor.jpgHave you ever had a dispute with that grumpy neighbor next door or across the hall to the point that the two of you were ready to exchange words…or blows?  Ever have a dispute with a shady landlord who was trying to evict you for no good reason? Have you ever had intense disagreements with your family members over when or where to send one of your elderly parents after it became just too hard to provide proper care for that parent at home anymore? If you can answer “yes“ to those or to any other stress inducing interpersonal conflict you may have, resolving that conflict at the Dayton Mediation Center is an option you may not have known was available.

As a divorce attorney who understands that many big problems can be avoided if conflict can be addressed as soon as a small situation arises, I recently visited the Dayton Mediation Center to find out exactly how they help people solve their conflicts.  Michelle Zaremba, the Director of the Center, explained their mission and what mediation is all about.  She was quick to point out that mediation is not negotiation (“if you get this, then I want that…”), going to court, or psychotherapy.  In fact, in a Center brochure that Ms. Zaremba handed me, Federal Judge Walter H. Rice stated it perfectly when he said “What mediators do is not say this is how you will resolve this situation.  What mediators do is take people and empower them to do the right thing, to resolve their disputes, and to continue with their relationship.”

It is that “transformative” approach to dispute resolution that the Center utilizes. Their goal is not to just to help people reach some settlement for the sake of saying they have reached a settlement, but to truly change the way people go about resolving issues.  When individuals get the opportunity to say what they need to say, hear what the other person has to say, then make decisions about the situation on their own, (versus having some Judge or other 3rd party decide their issue), then they tend to honor the plan they helped create.

Last year, the Center received over 2500 referrals from various court systems (Juvenile/Common Pleas/Municipal), police departments, attorneys, Prosecutors or private parties.  Those disputes involved everything from first time juvenile criminals, to neighbors fighting over a fence, to domestic disputes between a parent and a child, to landlord/tenant disputes.  Not every one of those referrals was accepted, but the Center still helped to resolve over 600 disputes in 2010 alone! Ms. Zaremba states that the Dayton Mediation Center boasts over a 90% success rate for all their mediations!

To handle such a large volume of mediations, the Center makes use of approximately 80 trained volunteer mediators.  Those volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, such as ex-Judges, students, lawyers, social workers, and homemakers.  Actually, anyone who wants to help people communicate differently and work through conflict without violence is welcome to participate in the Center’s mediation training.

In addition to performing in-house mediations, the Center also goes into many of the area schools and offers Peer Mediation.  Their staff will actually go into our area schools and teach students between the 7th and 12th grade how to mediate. When issues arise at school between students, 2 trained student mediators can then help resolve conflicts between their peers.  It has proved to be an awesome learning tool that has produced some impressive results for those involved.

When the Center conducts mediations, there are always two mediators involved in the session.  Additionally, whenever possible, the group tries to match the sex or race of their mediators with the sex or race of the participants.  This practice has been shown to bring about much better results.

If you are a Montgomery County resident and are interested in having a dispute resolved through the Dayton Mediation Center, call (937) 333-2345, explain your dispute and find out if they can help you with your pending conflict.  If you think becoming a volunteer mediator is something you’d like to do, contact the DMC to get further information. Or, click here to go to their website.

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About The Author: John C. Meehling
Attorney John C. Meehling is a Family Law Attorney from Dayton, Ohio, and contributor to the Ohio Family Law Blog. Attorney Meehling recently joined the Dayton law firm of Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues on November. 1, 2010.

Before You Start Swinging…Call the Dayton Mediation Center!
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