Shuttle mediation occurs when you and your ex-partner are in separate rooms during a mediation and the mediator goes between each of you, transferring messages, to facilitate an agreement.
The ‘usual’ processes and structures used in mediation will still occur – you each give your opening statements, an agenda is developed and you each discuss your points of view on each topic.
The difference is that instead of speaking directly to your ex-partner, you speak to the mediator. The mediator will confirm with you what message you wish passed on to your ex-partner, and the mediator will deliver this message.
Sometimes, your mediator will use tools to help communicate each of your views – for example, one common whiteboard may be used and you each have time with the mediator in the room with this whiteboard. Sometimes, butcher’s paper is used to illustrate your proposals and thoughts.
When does shuttle mediation occur?
There are many circumstances when shuttle mediation may be considered. Some examples include:
- When there is a history of family violence, and/or a risk of violence occurring during a joint session (which may include verbal, emotional, physical abuse).
- When being in the same room will affect your (or your ex-partner’s) ability to have the ‘headspace’ to process what is being discussed, and in turn, to be able to think effectively enough to make the best decisions.
- When there is such a high level of conflict, that there is a very low chance of productive communication.
- When there is such a high level of emotion (often a product of the breakdown of the romantic relationship) that it is difficult to remain focused on the issues.
If you have any concerns for your safety or ability to participate effectively during mediation, you should discuss this with your mediator at any time during the mediation process (of course, the earlier the better though, so that the mediator can adapt the process to meet your needs).
Things to note about shuttle mediation
- It will inevitably take longer for the issues to be discussed in shuttle format compared to the mediation occurring in one room. However, the important thing to remember is that you want the mediation to be productive – whilst slower, it can be the better alternative in many circumstances.
- If there is a history of family violence, seeing your ex-partner, or even hearing their voice, may be enough of a trigger for you to then not be able to participate effectively in that day of mediation. If this may be the case, speak to your mediator about how the process can be adapted.
- The shuttle mediation format can be used in many ways – an entire mediation may be shuttle, you can start in shuttle then come together later in the session, or start together then move to shuttle when appropriate.
If you think that your mediation process may benefit from using a shuttle mediation structure, you should discuss this, and the reasons why, with your mediator. Having an open dialogue with your mediator about any concerns you may have about the process and the current (and past) relationship dynamics of you and your ex-partner is critical to the long-term success of your mediation.
When choosing a mediation service, you should discuss the ways that they can support your family – which may include the need for shuttle mediation – from the outset.
At Focus Mediation, we pride ourselves on the level of customisation we offer our client families – this ensures that all clients feel safe and that your mediation has the greatest chance of success.