ServicesWe provide the people of Santa Cruz County with an extensive variety of conflict resolution and dispute mediation services. Our clients come to us with problems arising from a vast array of relationships.
From Argument To Agreement
Whether you are involved in a recent conflict, or are plagued by an ongoing dispute that may have started years ago, we can help you find a resolution that will allow both parties to move forward. The written Agreement that you leave with can help you avoid costly and time-consuming litigation or having to take the other party to Small Claims Court.
Sometimes People Just Need a New Way of Communicating
We train the parties in techniques that promote calmer, more effective communication. These new communication tools also help the parties avoid future crisis situations. Our process allows each party to feel heard, maybe for the first time since the conflict arose.
Crisis Management and Creating a Peace Plan
Clients typically meet with the mediator for 1-3 hours per session, with additional sessions scheduled if necessary. The parties learn effective communication skills, and participate in piecing together a plan for resolving their conflict. A signed, written Agreement is created, and both parties leave with a copy of their Agreement. The Agreement can be modified in future sessions if needed.
Spouses • Domestic Partners • Parent-Teen • Siblings • Relatives
Family fights come in all shapes and sizes, from daily spats over household chores to major blow-ups over everything from hurt feelings to inheritance issues. If you are having trouble even staying in the same room with a family member, or trying to have a civil conversation with a relative, we can help you by meeting in a calm, neutral setting, allowing the arguments to be aired, and then finding a resolution by piecing together a peace plan. Each party will leave with new communication skills and a mutually acceptable written Agreement. This process can help change old habits by establishing new patterns of interacting among family members.
Homeowner Associations • Landlord-Tenant • Housemates • Roommates
Disagreements between roommates, or between tenants and landlords, are inevitable, but long-term stress over housing issues can be avoided and put to rest, typically within a single mediation session. Often the surface problem is not the real issue. The mediation process can allow parties to express deeper concerns and address ongoing problems in a safe, neutral environment where each person has a chance to speak and be heard, perhaps for the first time since the disagreements began. Together, a formalized, confidential Agreement can settle the current dispute and help avoid future misunderstandings.
Neighborhood conflicts arise in as many different forms as there are neighbors. Small irritations can fester and grow into larger, more heated confrontations over issues as varied as noisy or invasive pets, overhanging branches or view-blocking trees, loud music or large party crowds, parking, garbage cans, and even cultural or lifestyle differences. While it is difficult to control who your neighbors are, it is possible to co-exist peacefully when the parties agree to meet, discuss the problem, and brainstorm mutually acceptable solutions. By talking and listening in a facilitated process of exploration, things can change for the better.
Co-Workers • Employer-Employee • Colleagues • Business Partners • Business Associates
The workplace is often a breeding ground for intrapersonal irritations or escalating negative competitiveness that can lead to an unproductive working environment. Many times perceived inequities, or even simply annoying personal habits, can create animosity between co-workers. We meet with the parties and allow each side to be fully heard. Having their grievances aired with no fear of retaliation allows the parties to participate in creating a written Agreement regarding their future conduct in the workplace. We can also provide this service to a company’s Human Resources department as part of the organization’s harassment policy proceedings.
Many schools are incorporating conflict resolution techniques into their administrative approaches to handling disputes, whether between fellow students, or among students, parents, teachers, coaches, and administrators. We help resolve personal conflicts between classmates, teammates, and faculty members either in our offices or onsite at your educational facility. The daily pressures to achieve, mounting workloads, and competitiveness in social circles and sports arenas are all factors that can lead to harsh interactions, vindictiveness, frequent and escalating arguments, and even harmful bullying on and off campus. Our services can help diffuse situations before they become violent, and can help promote a healthier, more tolerant and productive academic atmosphere.
Consumer-Service Provider • Contractor-Builder • Contractor-Subcontractor
All too often consumers feel they either have no recourse or, alternatively, must take legal action against a vendor or service provider to settle a problem or recover damages for a faulty product, shoddy workmanship on a home or auto repair job, or for sub-standard services from a community business. We can help you save valuable time and avoid costly litigation by addressing your complaints in a carefully structured mediation session that will result in a fair and equitable solution to the problem. Contactors and owner/builders often find themselves in court, paying mounting legal fees to their opposing attorneys when they could instead split the cost of a mediator and create a written Agreement that covers every aspect of the disagreement while serving the needs of each party to resolve the conflict to their mutual satisfaction.
Facilitation and Advocacy
There may be times when you just cannot face a problem or interact with another person or business on your own. You may need a mediator to step into your shoes and handle the difficult, awkward, tense, complex, or overwhelming situation on your behalf. Or you may be part of a group that needs help getting the whole group to agree on the best approach to a convoluted or messy situation, often with multiple layers of disputes. We can help by meeting with you or your group to meticulously explore and define the problems, chart your goals, and then help you to prioritize the options for achieving those goals. Once the areas of conflict are identified, and the approaches to resolving them are outlined, then we can also assist you by advocating on your behalf, or by coaching your group’s representative regarding how to execute the plan for achieving an optimal and acceptable outcome.
Small Claims Court Counseling
If you do find yourself having to file a claim in Small Claims Court, you may need guidance regarding how best to proceed. We can help you work out preliminary considerations like whether this is actually your best option, how to assess and document the damages you may have suffered, and what factors to consider for an optional court-based mediation as part of the Small Claims process. We can also help you develop and prioritize a list of settlement options that would be acceptable to you in the Small Claims in-court mediation session. Of course, our first resort is always to recommend that you attempt to meet with the other party outside of court and before formally filing a claim. This can save you valuable time, plus you avoid the stress of subjecting yourself to the legal system and a court-imposed judgment. In a private mediation at our offices, you have much more control over the day, time, setting, and the potential outcomes of resolving your conflict by participating in writing the terms of your Agreement. With private mediation, the potential is much greater for achieving personal satisfaction and peace of mind.