This was the first mediation that I had conducted where it did not conclude on the same day. The reason was one of the parties suddenly informed me at around 11:30 pm that he had to leave at 1:30 pm.
In this particular case, both parties had attorneys but chose to attend mediation without attorneys, supposedly to allow for a more cordial atmosphere during mediation. I soon realized that the absence of attorneys did not make the process any easier. Since the parties had some garbled ideas regarding what they could potentially get if they went to court (with no attorneys around to correct them) and I, as the mediator, could not give any legal advice to either party, it became a bit of a challenge to keep the parties demands realistic.
And another thing I learnt from a prior mediation is that however much the parties seem to be cordial towards each other, it is rarely a good idea to have them in the same room, especially in family mediations. In that case, parties started talking directly to each other over their attorneys heads and that too in a foreign language and no one had any idea what they were saying to each other!
In this particular case, since one of the parties had a history of violence, a decision to keep them apart all the time to allow for a smoother mediation was a non-brainer.
Here the petitioning party came armed with so much facts and information that the fact gathering exercise from just one party ended up taking up several hours. Then the other party announced he had to leave at 1:30 pm and I decided it was time to cut to the chase and lay it out to that party.
In this case, the second party came in with a truculent attitude, already upset that I had spent an inordinate amount of time with the first party and he was in a hurry to leave. And on top of that, he was over confident that he would do well in court and so he had a take it or leave it attitude.
What I ended up doing was to go into my full blown evaluative mode and in about 30 minutes was able to paint him a picture of how it might go in court for someone in his situation. Somewhere within that 30 minutes, the light seemed to come on for him, he appeared to have a come-to-Jesus moment and he realized that he would be much better off making a deal during mediation rather than go to court. But by that time it was time for him to go and since it appeared to me that both parties were getting close to agreement, I scheduled a follow-up session with them a week later.
I am sure by the time they return they would have consulted with their respective attorneys. Whether that smoothens the path to settlement or completely derails the mediation process remains to be seen.
In the end, one party left feedback which was positive (while the one in a hurry to leave, left without filling the form) – but if the next session does not result in a settlement, both parties might end up blaming me for the failure – so watch this space – I will post an update after the next session.