Trapping the Data
A report released jointly by the Supreme Courts of Ohio and Maine has found that mediation programs are an effective way for families to solve legal conflicts. According to the report, a majority of both attorneys and clients perceive mediation programs as very fair, mediators as neutral and settlement agreements as evenly balanced. This project was funded by a grant from the State Justice Institute.
The report, called Trapping the Data, assesses a project developed to provide a statewide database of information related to court-connected family mediation. The courts intend to use the database not only to help effectively operate and evaluate these programs, but also as a basis for an article about lessons learned from the project.
This report is crucial because it supports what many people in the legal community already feel; that mediation is an extremely effective and appropriate way to handle family conflicts," said C. Eileen Pruett, former coordinator of Dispute Resolution Programs for the Supreme Court of Ohio.
The report examined mediation efforts in 943 cases, converting 13 courts in Maine and six courts in Ohio between 1996 and 1998. The cases included divorce, child custody, visitation and support. The report’s findings were based on a questionnaire that had been filled out by more than 2,000 people, including mediators, attorneys and clients in Maine and Ohio.
Court officers intend to use the data to determine how different factors might influence both the process and the outcome of various cases. The study examined education and experience of mediators, clients’ assessment of mediators and mediation, attorneys and clients in Maine and Ohio.
In general, both clients and attorneys reported that they were satisfied with the process. Seventy-eight percent of clients in Ohio and 61 percent of clients in Maine commented that mediation helped them to better understand the other party’s point of view. In addition, almost half said they thought that family mediation significantly improved their children’s situation. The response to mediation was equally positive - whether it was mandatory or voluntary. The report also found that women, minorities and people with lower levels of education and income responded particularly well to mediation. In addition, clients were impressed by how they were treated by the mediator. Clients favored mediators who encouraged them to express their feelings and frequently summarized their opinions.
The report found that mediation to resolve family disputes proved successful in both states, although Ohio and Maine differ greatly in both size and composition of population. Ohio participants tended to be slightly more enthusiastic than Maine participants about mediation, but only 154 mediated cases were assessed in Ohio, in contrast to 789 in Maine.