What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process in which two or more people involved in a dispute meet in a private, confidential setting and work out a solution to their problems with the help of a neutral mediator. A mediator is not a judge or an attorney. The mediator does not decide who is right or wrong. A mediator uses proven conflict resolution techniques to help both parties develop an agreement that will work for them. Neither party has to agree to any condition or set of terms they are not comfortable with. However, the final agreement is signed by both parties and is enforceable as a legal contract.

Who We Are

Citizens Mediation Service (CMS) was founded in 1992 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with the goal of offering low-cost or no-cost mediation services to local parties.  Fees are based on the type of case being mediated.  Persons below our income guidelines never pay a fee. CMS waives approximately 25% of all its case fees.

Today, CMS serves Berrien, Cass, Van Buren, Branch, and St. Joseph County residents. Mediations are conducted by highly-skilled volunteers who have received at least 40 hours of mediation training and completed an internship under expert supervision. Every year, CMS conducts hundreds of mediations, saving significant time and money for our residents and local court systems.

What to Expect

There are five parts to the mediation process:

  • Introductory remarks – The mediator makes introductions, describes his/her role, defines ground rules, and explains the voluntary and confidential nature of mediation.
  • Storytelling – Each side gets uninterrupted time to tell their side of the story. Sometimes a potential solution is offered by one or both parties as their stories are told. Clients occasionally have attorneys with them, but most often do not.
  • Joint Session – The mediator guides the parties through a discussion with a series of questions or by summarizing and re-framing what each party has said about the situation. Drawing out this information may help perspectives shift or solutions become apparent.
  • Brainstorming or Examining Offers – If no potential solutions are brought forward, the mediator will brainstorm with the clients to generate possible options. If an offer is made by either party, the mediator helps the parties determine if it is realistic and how the solution would be implemented.
  • Agreement Writing – If an agreement is reached, the mediator helps the parties commit their intentions to writing. Details that describe who, what, when, where, and how are usually written into these agreements. If both parties accept the proposal, the agreement is signed and becomes a legal contract. Not all mediations end in agreement. If no solution is found, the parties retain the right to pursue a traditional legal option through the courts. About 70% of mediations reach agreement; more than 90% of those that reach agreement are completed in one session.

2020 Board of Directors

CMS ensures quality services through the oversight of a high powered, knowledgeable Board of Directors. Our 2020 Board members bring great experience and guidiance to the staff and volunteers. 2020 Board of Directors: Rebecca Sanford, President, Dave Shellito, Secretary, Barb Wilke, Adam Messinger, Amber Peters and Mary Spiegel