Sep 3, 2013

Baby Veronica: Is it Possible to Mediate the Impossible?

Tanya Stanish

With court battles that have now spanned several years and with a young child at the center of a debate between her biological father and her adoptive parents, last month an Oklahoma court ordered the parties into mediation to reach a resolution.  It seems an impossible resolution route to an already difficult and emotional battle.  Yet, more and more these days, even in the most contested custody and parenting proceedings, judges are mandating mediation.

Naysayers would call it a wasted effort of time and more money spent, but surprisingly mediation can sometimes do what a court cannot: resolve the controversy with a unique and tailored plan that is best for the child.  Mediation allows the parties to craft their own resolution rather than let the court decide their fate and the future of the child.  Mediation requires the good faith participation of both sides, even if they are initially reluctant to attend.  Mediation, unlike the court process, also affords each party the opportunity to speak openly, with confidentiality, rather than argue through the lawyers in a public forum. Each party to the mediation can opt to have their lawyers present at the mediation, if they are uncomfortable mediating alone.

Resolution through mediation can also take a fair amount of time and effort, but it typically costs less than litigation and moves faster than the court process.  A skilled mediator can move the parties toward resolution either through a serious of face-to-face meetings or through “shuttle mediation” keeping the parties apart when necessary to keep the process calm and productive.

Thus, perhaps Baby Veronica’s future can still be decided jointly by her biological father and adoptive parents.  They have each “won” certain court battles along the way, with the biological father currently in possession of Baby Veronica per the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision issued last Friday.  Yet, Baby Veronica has not “won” anything; she is still in the midst of turmoil.  Good faith mediation may resolve her plight.

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