Is mediation appropriate if there has been a history of physical abuse?
This is a complicated issue and much debated in the mediation community. If there is ongoing physical abuse I believe mediation is not appropriate. It is essential that both parties feel comfortable and safe in during the mediation. If there is coercion on the part of one of the parties or acting out of fear on the part of another, then mediation is not likely to be successful. If there has been physical abuse in the past but is not happening in the present, mediation could be successful. Through confidential questionnaires and possible an individual meeting (called a "caucus") the mediator can and should explore issues of present safety and voluntariness. If it appears that it is truly in the past and both parties can discuss challenging issues with one another, freely and without fear of retribution, then mediation can be successful. Issues of emotional abuse are more complicated as the definition of what is emotional abuse can be more subjective and can vary from party to party. One thing to remember is that the alternative, going to trial, can in some ways be even more difficult and lead to more stress and confrontations.