As the following picture shows, mediation is a staged process. There are different schools with slight variations but the general process is similar:
In step 1, the process is clarified. The conflicting parties are explained some key principles of mediation and are asked, whether they are willing to engage in the process. At the end a contract is made, to ensure, that the role of the mediator is understood not as a problem solver but as facilitator.
In step 2, the conflict is analysed. Therefore at first the topics the conflicting parties want to talk about are collected. It is crucial that each party has the same rights to voice his/her point of view. The other party has to listen. In order to facilitate understanding, it may be requested to repeat, what was understood in own words.
In step 3, the needs and interests of the parties are uncovered. This is a critical step towards solution finding because often the parties have a very fixed image of the solution, which does not allow alternatives. If the underlying needs and interests are made transparent it is possible to talk about other strategies to fulfil these, than the one which lead to a deadlock. The interests and needs of the child may also be defined, too. Despite all disputes, often the parents agree on the interests and needs of the child, a good starting point to look for solutions.
In step 4, solutions are brainstormed. In the creative process all ideas, even unusual or those seeming crazy may be expressed. Only after the creative process is finished, the ideas are evaluated. Can both parties agree to this solution? Is it a just solution for both parties? Can it be realised?
In step 5, the agreement is worked out. This means to define all aspects of the solution chosen, e.g. visiting rights, financial aspects, language issues, how to explain to the child.
A mediation in the context of parental cross-border child abduction was simulated in the context of the conference “Protecting the Child” by the mediators Isabell Lütkehaus and Ludwig Linden.