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Intra-Family Commercial Mediation: Get Back At or Get Back Together?

{2.54 minutes to read} All happy families may be alike, but all families with intra-family disputes involving money Intra-Family Commercial Mediation: Get Back At or Get Back Together? by Gary Shafferare unhappy in their own way. Resentments build up slowly over time, people develop allies and enemies, recollections diverge, and “alternate truths” emerge. Each family has its own unique set of alternate truths that must, at a minimum, be recognized for a mediation to be successful.

The goal of an intra-family mediation is not to get family members to agree on a single truth. This may be emotionally impossible, and recollections can be fuzzy and subject to interpretation. Words can be stated in many different ways and with different intent. What was meant one way may have been taken in another. 5, 10, or 15 years later, the recordings are lost. And to some extent they may be irrelevant.

However, even if a resolution does not necessarily require an agreement on all the facts, it does typically require discussion of factual differences and the varied positions that accompany them. People cannot agree to put aside their factual differences and move toward an agreement unless they’ve had the chance to express their recollection of what happened.

Where the dispute is between parents and children, the parent may see the child’s position as reflecting the child’s typical contentiousness, while the child may see the parent as continuing their controlling ways. Between siblings, there’s always “Mom loved you best,” which might even be true.

But whatever the differences, the parties may agree they would still like, when possible, to continue spending certain holidays together, that grandchildren have contact with grandparents, and that cousins are able to maintain relationships. They may even want to continue working together if the dispute involves a family business.

Typically, there is anger, but just beneath the surface there can be sadness as well. Allowing the anger out during the mediation can often create a bridge to recognizing and acknowledging the sadness. Ironically, allowing the sadness to emerge, which may require delicate teasing out, can increase the chances of a mediated solution.

Next time, we’ll discuss different kinds of intra-family disputes and more of the process that can help create solutions.

Have you ever been involved in a mediated intra-family dispute? What was the result? What worked and what didn’t? What might you suggest to others?

Gary ShafferGary Shaffer
Shaffer Mediation

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An honors graduate of Harvard University and the Cardozo Law School of Yeshiva University, where he also served on the Law Review, Gary brings more than 30 years of litigation and negotiation experience to his practice as a mediator. He has successfully negotiated and mediated resolutions in family matters, employment cases, commercial disputes, personal injury cases, and major civil rights matters.

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