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What is Mediation?

When I talk about mediation, many people are not too familiar with the term and often confuse mediation with meditation. So to answer the first question, mediation is a process used to help people reach agreements. In this process, a neutral, trained mediator works with people to discuss all of the issues related to whatever their family conflict is, to explore possible options for settlement of that conflict, and to identify solutions that best meet the needs of each person involved.

Many people also question how mediation can be helpful when couples in conflict may already have a lawyer.  Most people are surprised that family mediation can be a very useful way for some couples to sort out practical things when they split up: things like where the children will live, how to sort out the finances, and what will happen to the family home.

In Australia, more than 80% of family disputes are resolved through family mediation. In the US, many jurisdictions require that civil cases go to mediation before they go to court, to save time/money for the overloaded judicial system. However, in Indonesia the number is less than 10% of family disputes that are resolved through mediation.

What are the benefits of mediation?

  • Mediation can be beneficial as both parties regain control in the sense that they can agree and make a contract or they can disagree.
  • When parties mediate, they shape the future of their own lives and, more importantly, the lives of their children.
  • Mediation allows the parties to customize a personal agreement that fits their needs more than something impersonal a judge might impose on them.
  • Mediation enables the parties to reach a satisfying resolution which is less expensive and which can be much quicker than a court trial.
  • The results of a mediation agreement can be implemented by both parties in the future.

What steps are involved in the mediation process?

The initial process begins when one of the parties contacts a mediator. After meeting the contacting party, the mediator will then proceed to contact the other party. The mediator will meet both parties separately and will then arrange a joint mediation session at the mediator’s conference facility.

What actually happens in a joint-mediation session?

The mediator will first explain how the mediation process works with both sides present. The parties will know that the primary purpose of the joint meeting is to help the parties analyze their situation and negotiate an agreement that satisfies both sides. The mediator may not impose a settlement on them or make any decisions. The statements made in the mediation conference are confidential and may not be used by either side against the other in the courts.

Both sides will have an opportunity to explain to the mediator and each other their view of the facts and what an appropriate settlement would cover. After the group discussion, the mediator may meet privately and confidentially with first one side then the other.
Proposals for resolution of each element of a complete agreement will be negotiated and agreed to in sequence. The agreement will be negotiated piece by piece until the parties have covered the necessary elements to form an agreement to regulate their future interaction. The full agreement is usually generated at the conference. The mediation process will take at least several hours. It may be divided into more than one session to allow the parties to reflect on the progress and come up with possible new ideas and perspectives to work out the agreement.

What happens next?

When an agreement has been reached, mediators ensure that there is voluntary compliance with it. The final agreement is then drafted and signed at the mediation meeting. The mediator will ensure that the parties are satisfied with the accuracy of the written agreement before it’s signed.

Where no agreement has been reached, mediators encourage the parties to agree to have a cooling off period before they consider continuing to mediate at a later stage.

One person's story of the mediation process

The first time I was introduced to mediation was through a friend, and that was when I had lost hope on how to get my house back from my ex-husband. One lawyer recommended by a friend had quoted me 50 million rupiah just to take the case to court without any guarantees of success. The thought of having to take time off work to go back and forth to court was daunting. The thought of an argument turning ugly when I hadn’t encountered my ex for over 8 years gave me nightmares. Finally, after being recommended to a mediator from Pusat Mediasi National, I felt more at ease.

Unlike the lawyer, this mediator was very objective from the word go. He would be sympathetic but would not take sides on any of the issues I had raised. His fee was also a lot more affordable as each party had to pay half of the total fee. At that time the whole cost came up to only one-tenth of what it would have cost to have a lawyer. He agreed to contact my ex-husband first by sending him a letter and then sending a text message a few days after the letter had arrived. Voila! Good news! My ex-husband agreed to mediation too as he wanted to resume contact with our daughter whom he hadn’t seen for 8 years.

After 2 separate meetings with each of us, where it was explained what the other party expected, we were finally ready to go into a joint-mediation session. As the joint-mediation session came closer, my now current husband and I were nervous to meet my ex-husband and his girlfriend (who later became his wife) but looking forward to getting all the issues cleared up as soon as possible. After 8 hours, we were finally able to reach an agreement, and both parties were relieved to be able to start resolving past issues so that we could move forward.

This happened years ago. To this day, my ex-husband and I get along well. When my husband, the kids and I go out for dinner with my ex-husband and his family, no one would think I'm with my ex-husband. We look like a big happy family that never had issues.

Another story of mediation

A few months after I had officially become a mediator, I was faced with one of my students at Junior High School who had taken Baygon. The prospect of his dad marrying another woman instead of remarrying his mom, had caused him to resort to extreme action to get his voice heard. I decided to contact his mother to see if she were interested in mediation. After 3 months of mediation, his parents are now re-married and my student is no longer suicidal.

I hope that Indonesian society will be more open to a non-litigation style in resolving family conflict as it relates to “Silahturahmi” which means maintaining family ties.


This article was provided by Alexandra. T. Scherer, a Jakarta-based certified mediator specializing in family issues

Email address: [email protected]
Mobile number: 0811-8403749 (sms only)

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