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Is Thanksgiving week a good time for mediating family disputes?

In the United Kingdom, this is National Family Dispute Resolution Week. The choice of dates has nothing to do with the American holiday of Thanksgiving, of course, but it does bring up an interesting question: is Thanksgiving a good time to try to resolve family disputes?

Not Thanksgiving Day, perhaps -- it’s busy enough. Also, mediation works best with a neutral person who knows how to use the process to resolve the dispute mutually, and even uninvolved family members and friends may not be truly neutral. They typically have some stake in the issue, if only loyalty.

Holidays are meant to be cheerful, so many people intentionally avoid dealing with family problems -- but holidays may also be the only time all parties to the dispute are together. Yet resolving a thorny family dispute might make the holiday happier than it would otherwise be.

In support of National Family Dispute Resolution Week, here are a few insights from a U.K. mediator about resolving divorce and other family disputes:

Privacy is important

A semi-formal setting like mediation allows the parties to talk openly, without speculation, gossip or interruption -- and without a fight. In mediation, issues are treated as problems to be worked out, not a contest with a winner and a loser.

Keep your expectations realistic

Family law litigation often takes months or years, even when the issues should be fairly straightforward. In part, that’s because our courts are intentionally set up to allow each party to present its strongest case in a winner-takes-all contest. Families need to live with each other afterwards, and that’s best done through cooperation. Reasonable expectations are the best place to start.

Some issues may crop up again

Especially when family problems involve children, circumstances may change over time. If problems you thought were resolved arise again in the future, don’t be discouraged. If you have trouble renegotiating on your own, call in a mediator as soon as you feel stuck -- before the disagreement escalates.

Whether you make Thanksgiving an occasion for family problem-solving, decide to schedule time with a mediator, or table the issue for now, we hope you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

Source: The Reading Post, "The good and bad of celeb divorces," Nov. 26, 2013

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