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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Stewart-Williams, MDR

It is very tricky to Mediate High Conflict Cases...

Updated: Jan 24

High Conflict cases are cases that have many sensitive elements that may cause it to be prolonged for years in a court system. High Conflict cases may contain a history or have present issues of:

  • domestic violence and abuse

  • financial abuse

  • mental health issues

  • "cluster b" personality disorders

and other influential factors that can impede on resolving disputes. Let me first be very clear that most Judicial Court systems are not equipped to address or even identify these issues within cases. Most Judges do not even have the time to read pleadings much less pay attention and review evidence. They are making premature decisions with a guaranteed possibility of prolonging the court case unnecessarily. In cases like these some lawyers love such conflict because it allows a continued financial flow for years. This can cause a tremendous amount of pain and anguish for litigants in court especially for a protective parent.

Due to the above mentioned issues dispute resolution can be difficult if the facilitator or mediator is unknowledgeable on how to handle high conflict issues and individuals. For example, mediations are not conducted in the same manner as general mediations. The process is actually completely different.

The approach in high conflict cases is distinct from other approaches. They are not treated the same as general mediations. Many domestic abuse survivors and advocates scream at the top of their lungs about the dangers of mediation and that is only because of the experiences and tragic occurrences that have occurred due to the limited knowledge of the mediator. The reality though is mediation if handled as high conflict, is more beneficial to the survivor than being forced to show up in court on numerous occasions with the abuser.

If anyone should desire alternate dispute resolutions, it should be those that are in high conflict. I hear consistently in cases like these is that "we have already been to mediation and it just doesn't work". Once I inquire further its identified that the way that mediation was handled was a major contributing factor to the reason why it did not work. If the mediator does not specialize in high conflict mediations or intense dispute resolutions then there is a great possibility that it will not work. The mediation will resemble what it looks like in the court room and will deem to feel hopeless.

How do I know so much about this? Besides my professional interactions, personally I was in a high conflict case, and the reality is high conflict cases can have you bound to the court system for decades. It is because of my own personal experience that I have dedicated myself to dispute resolution. There is always one litigant who enjoys going back and forth to court to fight it out.

If you are in a high conflict case always seek alternative dispute resolutions. You have to think of going through this judicial process as a steady jog instead of a quick run because individuals who enjoy high conflict do not stop. They are continuous in their aimless pursuit of winning. Focus on obtaining a mediator who specializes in high conflict, and focus on trying to mediate one issue at a time. In high conflict cases, you will need a lawyer who understands high conflict but identify one who is willing to support you in your desire to have limited interaction with the individual who desires to fight. This can save you years of pain, money, and harassment from a person who likes conflict and from the court system itself.

As always if you have further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me! I am here for you!

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