On Friday, Sept. 26, the IndyBar Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Section hosted its annual Mediation Day, which was coordinated by ADR Section Chair Phyllis Armstrong of The Mediation Group. The event had a new host this year, with Barnes & Thornburg LLP volunteering office space and providing lunch for volunteer mediators. For the second year, that law students were invited to shadow the mediation sessions, allowing them to get a firsthand look at the process.
Armstrong says that although there have been new elements introduced over the years, the process is virtually the same each year – because it works. Five paternity cases are seen in the morning, five more are slated for the afternoon, and a commissioner is on site to sign any resolutions. She said that in years past, the majority of the cases are settled.
“It makes an expensive process affordable and allows the parties to work through issues face-to-face outside of court,” Armstrong said.
The mediators are all volunteer attorneys and are Certified Family Law Mediators from the IndyBar ADR Section. This year’s volunteers were: Dallin Lykins, Lewis & Kappes PC; Marc Matheny, Attorney at Law; Megan Weddle, Stowers & Weddle PC; Robin Kelly, Mitchell Law Group; Detra Mills, Attorney at Law; Amanda Blystone, Broyles Kight & Ricafort PC; Jennifer Bays Beinart, Bays Family Law; Melinda O’Dell, Attorney at Law; Christine Douglas, Harden Jackson LLC; and Melanie Reichert, Broyles Kight & Ricafort PC.
The commissioners for the day were Marion County Commissioner Marie Kern and Marion County Presiding Commissioner Sheryl Lynch. One law student was matched with each attorney to shadow a mediation session, and Armstrong said there was a wait list of students this year who wanted to participate.
Commissioner Kern said that mediation sessions are an invaluable resource to the court system.
“It allows parties to retain control over the outcome,” said Commissioner Kern. “They know best when it comes to what is going to work and what is feasible for them, much better than a judge who only gets a snapshot will. Mediation usually produces longer-term results than a court order can.”
Mediation Day frees up time on the dockets, which Commissioner Kern said is especially beneficial in paternity court. She said it is the busiest court in the state.
Armstrong, Kern and attorney Dallin Lykins agreed that communication is key to making progress in these cases.
“There is a breakdown in communication that leads to conflict,” said Commissioner Kern. “Mediation can help reopen the lines of communication.”
“I try to remind them of what they agree on and build from there,” Lykins said. “Most the time there is more common ground than they realize and it helps us move forward.”
The 2014 Mediation Day was another successful year, so much so that the topic of adding another Mediation Day mid-year was brought up. “It’s certainly something the section would be open to,” Armstrong said.
Interested in getting involved? Contact Armstrong at [email protected] to learn more.•