Sometimes it helps to have a neutral person look at a dispute and help negotiate a mutually agreeable settlement.
That was the lesson learned Tuesday during a mock mediation held in Professor Jane Younglove's criminal justice class at California State University, Stanislaus, where a trained mediator worked with students who negotiated resolutions to fictitious disputes.
And that's the goal of mediation services available in most civil disputes in Stanislaus County Superior Court. Officials across the state are promoting such work as part of Mediation Week, which runs through Saturday.
The court is holding a luncheon and reception for its mediators and handing out free water bottles and pens to promote their work.
Mediators have worked on family law cases since 1981, helping resolve custody disputes and arrange visitation for parents or guardians who are splitting up.
Attorneys have helped mediate complex civil cases since the early 1990s. A $200 hourly fee can save the time and expense of repeated hearings before a judge.
Mediation now is the norm for the little guy as well.
A year ago, the court entered into an 18-month contract with Project Sentinel, a Sunnyvale-based nonprofit group that works on housing issues, and the Better Business Bureau of the San Joaquin Valley, which runs mediation programs in Fresno and Bakersfield.
The two groups run the Stanislaus Mediation Center, which helps resolve small claims and landlord-tenant disputes.
According to the court's alternative dispute resolution coordinator, Karen Camper, the program ran for nine months in 2007, with mediators reaching agreements in 63 percent of 213 disputes. A small-claims adviser handled 3,150 inquiries.
The process saves time, and supporters believe people are more likely to comply with such settlements because they played a role in the outcome.
For more information, contact the Stanislaus County Mediation Center at 1419 K St. in downtown Modesto, 236-1577.
Bee staff writer Susan Herendeen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2338.