In cases where the former couple are either unwilling or unable to sit in the same room together due to a history of coercive behaviour, fear of intimidation and/or domestic violence, or just heightened emotions then their only option for mediation may be shuttle style. The big difference between shuttle and other forms of mediation is that the former couple don’t meet face to face during the process, but instead they discuss their issues with the mediator in separate rooms (or if conducted online, in different ‘breakout’ rooms) and the mediator goes back and forth between them by phone or other means.
It is important to note that there is no way for a couple to have the magic of a joint meeting in shuttle mediation, which can often be more difficult to work through and may take longer than other types of mediation, but it can also be very helpful to clarify one or two key points that will assist the parties moving forwards in the future (whether this is parenting, financial, or property issues). Having the opportunity to hear directly from each other about what matters to them can be incredibly powerful, especially if they recognise that they need to make some changes going forward.
The mediator will usually spend some time with each party individually to establish their concerns and explore options for resolution. They will then run a session where they ask each party to make proposals, and the mediator will try to make all reasonable arguments both legal and non-legal for why those proposals should be accepted. The opposing party will counter-propose and the process continues until either the proposal is agreed upon or it is at a point where the mediator feels that there is no further productive progress that can be made, so they stop.
A final meeting will then be held where the mediator will explain what has been achieved and what is being left to resolve. This is the best opportunity for both parties to see that their views have been heard and understood, and that they will be able to move forward with an agreement.
In cases where there is a history of family violence, the mediator may decide to hold several shuttle sessions as a matter of practice. This will allow the couples to build up trust and confidence in their mediator, which can be an important factor in ensuring that they feel safe to negotiate an outcome. This is often more effective than trying to mediate a high-complexity FDR in one session, which can be emotionally draining and can lead to both parties suffering from ‘buyer’s remorse’ once they have signed their agreement.
In many cases, the most appropriate and cost-effective way to resolve disputes is to engage in FDR with a skilled mediator, but if the circumstances of your case require you to use shuttle mediation, then your mediator will be happy to talk through the reasons why this is the case with you and help you with an appropriate plan of action. what is shuttle mediation