Conflict resolution: The Polk Dispute Settlement Center

Published 3:47 pm Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Helping people settle their differences is all in a days work for the Dispute Settlement Centers trained volunteer mediators. The Dispute Settlement Center opened an office in Polk County in March 2008. Since then more than 50 civil and criminal cases have been resolved through their mediation processes that would have otherwise gone to trial costing the courts, and the peoples, time and resources.

The Dispute Settlement Center mediators facilitate communication as a neutral party using a safe and structured process. This process helps parties express their concerns, explore their options, and come to a resolution everyone can agree on as an alternative to going to court.

Disagreements may arise between neighbors, property owners and tenants, family members or any two or more parties. In the heat of a moment, communications may break down and situations escalate. Mediation often allows people to openly discuss the situation and even express the emotional impact, something not generally available in a court proceeding.

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The need for acknowledging feelings like disappointment, hurt feelings, frustration or anger that occur in conflicts often are overlooked leading to ongoing deadlocks. Mediators can help break that deadlock, open communication and allow the space people need to begin anew, resolving issues and moving on.

Offering a wide range of community services, The Dispute Settlement Center offers effective communication services between organizations as well as individuals, helping to turn turf wars into constructive collaborations.

So why use mediation to settle a dispute rather than the courts?

Mediators do not take sides or offer solutions

Mediators help the parties maintain control and resolve the situation for themselves rather than turning that control over to the courts

The issue and its solution remain private and confidential rather than on public record

Mediation is free to the disputants in cases when referred by the courts or magistrate.

In addition to resolving court cases, the Dispute Settlement Center offers a variety of alternative dispute resolution processes specifically targeted to families, couples, youth and the work place as a means to peacefully resolving conflict.

Family mediation helps negotiate parenting plans for separate or combined households, strengthen communication skills between parents or parent and child and help adult siblings navigate the difficult issues and decisions regarding an elder parent.

Youth mediation programs assist young people in dealing with the conflicts in their lives coaching effective ways to communicate and problem solve one-on-one, in peer groups or with their parents or guardians.

The bottom line is that mediation works! It works because it brings people to the table where they can discuss and evaluate their needs and safely explore settlement options. It works in over 85 percent of the cases, sometimes even when parties have been previously unable or unwilling. Knowing and maintaining positive relationships with your neighbors makes for safer and more peaceful neighborhoods. DSC is helping one situation at a time. People choosing to resolve conflicts in a positive way enhance the quality of life in Polk County.

The DSC is a United Way agency and a member of the Mediation Network of North Carolina, the NC Bar Association, and the National Association for Conflict Resolution. Contact DSC at 828-697-7055 or see their website