Neutrality is different than telling the client, or the party of the mediation what he or she wants to hear. And that is where the participants in the mediation sometimes feel that there is a lack of neutrality. In response to information that they don’t want to hear, it’s much simpler to say, “Neutrality is gone and I’ve got a biased mediator. I’m unhappy with what is happening.” That’s a question of perception and that’s different from the true definition of neutrality.
That’s usually where we have problems with the mediation process, is that people are hearing what they don’t want to hear, even if it’s the right advice. I don’t have any injunction to encourage mediation as a process.
John Harding is the principal of the law firm of Harding & Associates in Northern California. He practices family law litigation and divorce mediation exclusively.