Family Mediation – Constructive Dispute Resolution for Business Families

Family Mediation is the “go to” process for families when Family Law is used to facilitate matrimonial separation.  The process can be anything from a highly formalised, institutional process to flexible private proceedings, tailored to the needs and styles of the parties themselves.

In contrast, in the family business world family, mediation is much less widely practised, seemingly for 2 reasons:  (1)  few mediators are willing to address the complex mix of technical, legal, financial and emotional issues involved, as most specialise in either: (a) legal / financial / technical issues, or (b) relationship-focussed, human issues; and (2) business families simply don’t like getting outsiders involved in their intimate affairs, and often delay getting help until it’s far too late to save the family and/or the business.

And yet, Family Mediation for business families makes so much sense.  It’s a solution-focused process, that seeks to understand the broad background of whatever conflict has developed, in terms of relationship dynamics and technical/financial issues, before it tries to put the pieces back together again in ways that work for all family members, and for the family business, over the long term.

When the main alternative is litigation, which is fundamentally adversarial and is all about the assertion of legal rights over personal and family needs and interests, it’s patently obvious that when families fail to seriously attempt to resolve their issues, and instead choose (or are forced) to fight legal battles, they “need their heads read”, as some judges have remarked to family members in their courtrooms, over the years.

A skilled Family Mediation process takes whatever time is required to understand the individuals involved, and their family histories, as well as their current issues, and the genesis of those issues.  Although the past can’t be changed, major influences can be acknowledged, discussed and put to rest to provide a basis for understanding the past, and how it has led to the present.  When that part of the process has been successfully completed, options and commitments can be developed to lead to a better future.

Those go-forward options are then developed collaboratively, with the family mediator acting as: “everybody’s friend, and nobody’s advocate”, to facilitate a process that has everybody’s buy-in.

Family mediation processes can proceed as quickly as their participants are able and willing to go.  Our conclusion, drawn from over 30 years spent working with hundreds of business families in this space, is that a family mediation process will cost less than 10% of the time, effort and expense of litigation, and will cause far less damage to family relationships and personal self-esteem, than would be suffered in litigation.

To discuss Family Mediation needs and options please call, or contact: The Solutionist Group.

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