FAQ: Community Mediation
SEEDS uses trained mediators to help people and entities in conflict find constructive solutions that meet everyone’s needs. Our Mediations are restorative, effective and affordable (no one is turned away for inability to pay).
1. Who provides these services?
100+ volunteers from all walks of life in the community are extensively trained in mediation and conflict resolution skills and give their time to help others in conflict. Some of our volunteers and staff work in our office counseling with clients and exploring whether people involved in a dispute are willing to participate in a mediation. When a mediation is scheduled, other volunteers work in pairs to assist the disputants in communicating their needs and interests and engage them in problem-solving and development of agreements.
2. What types of conflicts does SEEDS mediate?
SEEDS handles a wide range of community conflicts including, but not limited to: neighbor issues such as noise, pets, parking, property lines, trees; landlord-tenant issues such as repairs, deposits, maintenance of the property; family/relationship issues such as custody, visitation, chores, money; small business and partnership dispute, roommates, workplace, and many more. SEEDS does not handle domestic violence cases or cases involving significant levels of violent or criminal behavior. We can mediate cases involving divorce, separation, child custody or visitation, but we aren't attorneys and cannot calculate formulas.
3. How much do these services costs?
Initial counseling and consultation is free. If we schedule a mediation, we ask each “party” to contribute toward a 3 hour mediation session. A “party” can be one or more people with the same interest or perspective in the conflict. Most cases are $75 per party, but the fee may vary depending on the category. Divorce cases dealing with child visitation, property division and debt are charged $250. This fee is on a sliding scale – no one is turned away for inability to pay.
4. Can SEEDS provide legal advice?
SEEDS cannot provide any kind of legal counsel or advice.
5. If I have a dispute, how do I initiate the mediation process?
Usually one person contacts SEEDS to discuss their dispute with a volunteer case developer. Together they assess whether mediation is appropriate and if they want to move forward. SEEDS is willing to make contact by phone or letter with the other people involved in the conflict to see if they are willing to mediate. If they agree, we schedule a mediation session – if they do not, our involvement ends because our process is entirely voluntary. However, we are still willing to help parties explore their other options.
6. How long does a mediation session last? How soon can they be scheduled? Where do they take place?
Most mediation sessions last 3 hours. Up to 2 additional sessions can be scheduled if the parties feel that the process is helpful and they need more time to work through the dispute. Mediations can be scheduled 7-10 days from the time all the parties have agreed to mediate. We are generally unable to schedule mediation sessions in less than 7 days. Most mediation sessions take place in the evenings, weekends and sometimes daytime hours. Mediations take place at the SEEDS offices in Berkeley.
7. Do disputants have an option to choose the mediators who will work with them?
No, parties are not given a choice of mediators at SEEDS. The mediation team is selected by the SEEDS office staff based on a number of criteria including background, mediation style, level of experience, and availability. We make a strong effort to have the mediation panel reflect the demographics of the disputants when requested. We do make sure that the mediators do not have any stake in the outcome. In the rare event that a mediator happens to know one of the parties, we check-in with each party to see if they would be comfortable with that arrangement on a case-by-case basis.