Family mediation evolved separately from civil and commercial mediation because it addressed specific needs and concerns, and faced different challenges. Unlike in civil mediation, where the subject of mediation can be any claim traditionally litigated in tort or contract, family mediation deals chiefly with dividing marital assets, determining child custody and visitation, and dealing with the emotions that go along with the transformation of an intimate relationship. Some have argued that “family mediation” is itself a misnomer — that what we’re really talking about is “divorce mediation.” But I would argue that the term “family mediation” is actually quite apt when, as in the vast majority of divorces, children are involved. The use of the word “family” acknowledges that we neutrals are in the business of helping parties renegotiate the terms of a relationship that will persist in some form, even after the parties are no longer living together and their material assets are divided.
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