A veteran’s heartfelt story and his journey through parenting time mediation

Veteran & DaughterRecently Oakland Mediation Center mediated a case involving the divorced parents of a little girl, who had separated shortly after their daughter had been born. The mother had sole custody. The father was in the military and had been deployed for a large part of his daughter’s life. After his discharge the father moved to Michigan to be near his daughter. During the father’s absence the mother had become engaged and wanted to move out of the state with her fiancé and her daughter. The parents came to mediation because the father wanted to reconnect with his little girl. The father thought the situation was hopeless; he was sure he would hardly ever see his daughter. He had spent all of his savings on the move to Michigan, had been unemployed for several months, and had just started to work again. He couldn’t afford another move.

During a 4 hour mediation session the parents had a breakthrough. The father was able to express his concerns about his daughter’s move to another state. The mother heard the father’s concerns and realized that he truly wanted to reconnect with their daughter. It became apparent that the parties had the same interests. The mother wanted her daughter to have a relationship with her father. The parents came to an understanding. When the mediation session ended, the father stayed behind and in near tears thanked the mediators and staff “for giving me my daughter back”.

Often times in the battle for parenting time, or co-parenting decision-making, the child(ren) are overlooked; however mediation brings focus to the best interest of the child(ren) and works with parents to comprise a mutually agreeable and workable agreement.

Individuals who have a referral from the Oakland County Friend of the Court and who are in dispute regarding their parenting time plans can utilize this service at no cost through the Access & Visitation Mediation Program. In this program, parents work together to craft a parenting time plan that works in their family’s best interest. The agreement reached is then sent to the Oakland County Friend of the Court for approval to be entered into a judgment.

Individuals who are low-income and/or indigent, can access this program through self-referral at no cost. To qualify for this, individuals must show evidence of low-income or indigent. For questions, please contact us at (248) 338-4280 or email us at info@mediation-omc.org.

Tips for Resolving Conflict using the PEACE Process

Peace ProcessShame, guilt, and self-blame are not typical feelings we have when we are thinking about a loved one, however they can develop from conflict in the relationship. Conflict can come up in even the healthiest of relationships. OMC has developed Tips for Resolving Conflict using the PEACE Process as a way to help those involved with conflict:

P Pause – To get your emotions under control by speaking in a lower tone or softly, breathe deeply, speak slower, smile, and watch your body language. 55% of the way we communicate is through body language; when our body language is closed, often you will find that people are already or are becoming that way too. Body language is a good gauge to monitor escalation of tempers before they flare out of control.

E Engage – The other person in the conversation using active listening skills to find out what’s going on. Give your full attention to the speaker; be aware of non-verbal messages (body language); acknowledge and validate the emotional state of the individual (“I hear that you are frustrated with this situation…”); restate what you hear by taking an idea or a concept and restating it in neutral language. Summarize the dialogue by giving an overview of what’s been said to validate your understanding. Point out areas of commonality. Do not interrupt, advise, judge, dominate, interrogate, challenge, accuse, contradict, criticize, name-call or put-down individuals as these bad communication habits can stop a conversation short.

A Ask – Questions to gain further understanding and clarification about what’s being said. Questions should be open ended, neutral, and void of judgments (i.e. “tell me more about what’s going on”, “what do I need to know about this situation?”, “how has the situation impacted you?” Questions should not make anyone uncomfortable and irritated; avoid questions beginning with “why” as they create defensiveness and put people on the spot; and be aware of the tone of voice in which the question is asked.

C Create – Options for resolution together by brainstorming solutions that meet each others needs. During the brainstorming phase remember that all ideas are good ideas, think creatively, don’t criticize each others idea; give yourselves the opportunity to identify as many possible solutions as possible.

E Evaluate – Each brainstormed option to see which works best and decide on a solution that is fair and works for everyone!

What is Divorce Mediation and How Does it Work?

Divorce Mediation

Meditation at OMC during divorce is a way of finding solutions to issues such as child custody and spousal support. It is an alternative to the formal process of divorce court. During mediation, both parties to the divorce, and sometimes their attorneys, meet with a neutral third party. This third party, the “mediator” assists the parties in negotiating a resolution to their divorce.

Parties have the opportunity to discuss the issues, generate options, and come to terms that they both agree to.

The mediator is an objective party. It is not his/her job to resolve problems or force an agreement on the parties. He/She helps the parties come to an agreement by acting as an intermediary.

Advantages of Mediation:

  • Saves time and money. When successful, mediation means sidestepping the formal process of divorce court. This shortens the process for the parties and helps reduce the caseload of the Family Court System.
  • Is fair to all concerned. The mediator is a third party who has no interest in the outcome. He/she stands to gain nothing.
  • Is a confidential process. There is no court reporter taking down every word said. Notes taken by the mediator are shredded afterwards. You don’t have to worry about your “dirty laundry” being aired in public. There is no public court process.
  • Avoids long, drawn out litigation, saves time & money in attorney fees and cuts down on the steps one normally has to go through to obtain a divorce.

Source: What is Divorce Mediation and How Does it Work? By Cathy Meyer

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in Oakland County- A Look at the Results

By Oakland Mediation Center

2 to 3 children in every classroom spend their day afraid because they are being bullied. Bullying is a problem and Oakland Mediation Center is on a mission to help solve it.

Oakland Mediation Center offers the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, which has been used by thousands of schools worldwide and has been proven to reduce bullying up to 70%. The program is designed for students in elementary, middle and high schools. It is implemented at the school wide, classroom, individual, and community levels and includes tools to reach out to parents for involvement and support. All school personnel and students are involved in learning about bullying, identifying roles people play in bullying situations, and prevention and intervention strategies to create a safe and welcoming school climate. Individual attention is given to students who are bullying others, those who are being bullied, or both. Parents and guardians are involved throughout the program. OBPP is designed to create positive changes in students’ behavior and in the school climate so students feel safe, are ready to learn and can achieve academic success.

A report prepared by Oakland Mediation Center in consultation with Dr. Sue Limber from Clemson University shows the impact that the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program had in four schools in Oakland County and here’s a look at the results.

  • After implementing the program, bullying decreased by 33.6% in high schools and 17.1% in middle schools.
  • The percentage of students who bullied others decreased by 75.6% in middle schools and 48.3 in the high schools.
  • Significant decreases were also seen in the amount of students who would help join a person in bullying someone and the amount of students who would just watch bullying take place without intervening.

“10 years ago we didn’t know what to do about bullying.  Now we do and it works right here in Oakland County,” said Bonnie Hanes, OMC Executive Director. This study on the findings on the implementation of OBPP in Oakland County, Michigan are promising indications that skills are being taught, learned, and utilized that both prevent and intervene in school bullying so that all students are provided a safe and supportive environment for effective teaching and learning to take place. Continuing new efforts and maintaining current initiatives will play an important role in providing a healthy future for the youth of Michigan.

Click here to read the full study.

For more information about the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, please contact Kenzi Bisbing at kbisbing@mediation-omc.org.

Do you think funding should be available to schools to provide programs proven to address bullying?

Here’s a briefing on CASEL- (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning) and why many believe it’s good for education

By Oakland Mediation Center


What’s CASEL?

CASEL is an acronym for Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning. CASEL is the nation’s leading organization that is committed to advancing the development of academic, social and emotional competence for all students. CASEL’s mission is to help make evidence-based social and emotional learning an integral part of education from preschool through high school. Through research, practice and policy, CASEL collaborates with schools to ensure all students become knowledgeable, responsible, caring and contributing members of society.


The Social and Emotional Learning Core Competencies of CASEL

CASEL’s principles surround five sets of cognitive, affective and behavioral competencies:


Self-awareness: The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior.


Self-management: The ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations.

Social awareness: The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures, to understand social and ethical norms for behavior, and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.


Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups.


Responsible decision making: The ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on consideration of ethical standards, safety concerns, social norms, the realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions, and the well-being of self and others.

The goal of focusing on these competencies is to promote students’ self-awareness, self- management, social-awareness, relationship, and responsible decision-making skills; and improve student attitudes and beliefs about self, others, and school. These, in turn, provide a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance as reflected in more positive social behaviors and peer relationships, fewer conduct problems, less emotional distress, and improved grades and test scores.

There is a growing awareness in the U.S. among educators and policymakers about the importance of social and emotional development for successful student performance in preschool and elementary school. The five sets of SEL competencies are important from very early in life but are especially relevant as children begin to spend time with adults outside the home and to socialize with peers.

Social and emotional skills play a role in determining how well-equipped children will be to meet the demands of the classroom. They also help determine whether students are able to engage fully in learning and benefit from instruction.

Research has shown that curriculums that focus on CASEL and its competencies can have a positive impact on school climate and promote a host of academic, social, and emotional benefits for students.

More schools are gearing up to adapt CASEL into their curriculums. What do you think about this? Tell us below, we can’t wait to hear what you think.

Source: CASEL

The most common myths about Mediation – Debunked

By: Oakland Mediation Center

Most people are not familiar with mediation. In fact, when most people see the word they often think of meditation, you know the act of sitting down with crossed legs, on the mission to find inner peace, but mediation, although it is peaceful, is different.

Simply put, mediation is an alternative to the litigation process. It is a forum where two parties work together to craft solutions tailored specifically to their needs in a relaxed environment. Mediation is a voluntary, private and confidential process.

Now that we’ve gotten the basic information about mediation out of the way, let’s tackle some of the most common myths that surround mediation.

  1. Mediation is like arbitration.

False. The biggest difference between the two is that in arbitration a decision is handed down by the arbitrator(s). In mediation, the mediator helps the parties involved reach a decision that both parties agree upon. The mediator helps facilitate the negotiation, the arbitrator listens to both sides and makes a decision in favor of one side.

  1. Mediators make the final decision in a case.

False. All parties involved in mediation retain the decision making control, no one makes the decision but the parties involved. Agreements can be as flexible or rigid as the parties choose for them to be, it’s only up to the individuals involved!

  1. A judge must order parties to mediation.

False. Anybody can refer a case to mediation. That’s right—anyone involved in a dispute can take it to mediation. It doesn’t matter what the problem is… it can be a landlord to tenant dispute, employee to employer dispute, family member to family member dispute or a neighbor to neighbor dispute. If you have a problem and you want it resolved outside of court, you can contact a mediation organization and take the steps toward reaching an agreement that satisfies both parties.

  1. Mediation can only be used for personal disputes.

False. Any type of dispute can be mediated. Family, divorce, business, employment, guardianship, special education, small claims, truancy and victim/offender disputes can all be mediated. If you have a problem, any problem, mediation can help resolve it.

Now that you know more about mediation, here are some of the benefits of mediation.

  1. Mediation is confidential.

All parties involved can feel comfortable and at ease knowing that the mediator will not disclose any information about the case to any outside parties or individuals.

  1. Mediation is much more cost effective than arbitration and litigation.

On average mediation is 90% cheaper that litigation and arbitration. Take divorce for example, two, three-hour mediation session costs $740, two, three-hour sessions in litigation can cost up to $4,500.

  1. Mediation saves time.

It can take months to get into court, but with mediation matters can be resolved in days. Yes, days.

  1. Parties can come back to mediation as often as they’d like.

If parties decide that they want to renegotiate the terms of their agreement or have new issues that arise, they can come back as often as they need too. The decision is theirs and mediators will be there to help them negotiate new terms.

There you have it- mediation in a nutshell! Mediation can cover a variety of case types, disputes and topics, so stay tuned for blogs about them all and feel free to share you experience, thoughts or questions about mediation with us. We would love to hear what you have to say. Leave a comment below!