Local mediator Donna Rintoul held a brainstorming session last week to try to find a way to keep mediation services visible in the community.
The service is available through Rintoul, however she is finding that a lack of knowledge or understanding of the process is keeping residents from taking advantage of its benefits.
“The challenge right now is raising public awareness,” said Rintoul, who has been certified as a mediator, and is working hard to ensure that the service does not disappear from the region.
Although most commonly associated with divorces or custody disputes, mediation is actually a wide-ranging service that can help with any dispute from dissolving partnerships, internal workplace relationships, challenges within a union, or even a family struggling to agree on their parents’ well-being.
“Quite often there will be siblings who don’t agree on where to place a parent who needs full-time medical care,” said Rintoul. “Or even an issue with an employee or colleague. Sometimes businesses end up losing employees that way, but if we sit down in a mediation session, we can often come to a solution.”
Rintoul has engaged in a media campaign to help educate the public on the many benefits of the service, but has not yet had the success she was hoping for. Right now she is looking for creative solutions.
“I know in my brain that this service is needed,” she said. “Mediation is never a waste of time. Even if the two parties cannot not come to an agreement, at the very least you come out of it knowing where the other person stands.”
Mediation often reduces the amount of time someone needs to spend with their lawyer on an issue such as a divorce. If a client walks in with documents from a mediation session, he or she already knows what both parties want, and has a starting off point.
Mediation is completely confidential, and is only legally binding if that is what all parties involved want it to be.
“Sometimes I feel like a referee in a sandbox,” said Rintoul. “But mediation is not counselling. We do not focus on the problems, or how we got here. We only need to find a solution.”
Rintoul is available as a mediator in the East Kootenays, and the hope is that if more people are aware of how much it can help, they will turn to mediation before taking more drastic steps such as court orders.
“The statistics show just how much mediation can speed up the process. If families come in early enough, usually the situation is smoothed out within a year. Otherwise the average is three years.”
If you have any questions about the mediation process, Rintoul can be reached at email@example.com .