WMU News

Course focuses on training more divorce, family mediators

May 11, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- With trained divorce and family mediators considered important tools in helping clear America's congested court dockets, Western Michigan University is offering a Lansing-area course designed to increase both the number and skills of those professionals.

Dr. Margie J. Geasler, associate professor of family and consumer sciences at WMU, will be co-facilitating a week-long mediation training course Monday, July 12, through Friday, July 16, at the Sheraton Lansing Hotel in Lansing, Mich. The course, Divorce and Family Mediation: Introductory Mediator Skills Training, will help a variety of professionals become better mediators.

According to Geasler, mediators are used to help couples decide parenting plans as well as property, alimony, child-custody and child-support issues without intervention by the court.

"Mediation helps judges and other court personnel handle the large number of cases that deal with divorce and related issues," she says. "In addition, it's an alternative way of helping families make decisions that rightfully belong to them, rather than depending on the legal system to make such decisions."

Geasler notes that mediation skills may become increasingly valuable in Michigan should ongoing revisions in the state's Family Court system create additional demand for mediators. In any event, she says, employing mediation to help resolve family issues already has proved useful.

"Mediated settlements result in fewer cases for our overburdened judicial system as well as in less expensive divorces for many couples," she says.

"Another advantage is that the settlement partners are more likely to comply because decisions are made jointly," Geasler adds. "They're also more likely to make pretrial agreements and be more satisfied with these agreements, more likely to have a joint custody arrangement and less likely to litigate following the final order."

WMU's 40-hour mediation course, which will focus on the principles and practices of divorce mediation, is designed for practicing mediators; attorneys; judges; health, mental health, and human service professionals; counselors; family life educators; administrators; and clergy. It is approved by
the Academy of Family Mediators and is being presented by the College of Education and the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences.

Through lecture, role play and discussion, participants will gain the theoretical background and practical skills and techniques necessary to better facilitate resolution of divorce and family matters.

Featured trainers for the course are Ann Milne and Peter Salem, two executives with the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, an international organization of judges, lawyers, mediators and custody evaluators.

Milne, the association's executive director, has worked in divorce and mediation for 27 years. She is co-editor of Divorce Mediation: Theory and Practice and has conducted training programs for judges, lawyers and mental health professionals across the United States as well as in Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Salem, the associations' associate director, is past president of the Wisconsin Association of Mediators and a former director of Rock County (Wis.) Mediation and Family Services. He also was project director of the national study on "Effective Resolution of Custody and Visitation Disputes Involving Domestic Violence."

Along with Geasler, two other WMU faculty members will help facilitate the course. They are Dr. Linda S. Dannison, professor and chairperson of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, and Charles "Rusty" Dannison, an attorney and adjunct associate professor in the Division of Continuing Education.

The course fee of $1,095 includes the cost of a resource handbook, lunches and refreshments during breaks. The final deadline to register is June 1. Participants may take the class for three hours of graduate or undergraduate credit from WMU. Regular University tuition rates apply for persons who opt to take the course for credit.

More information about the divorce and family mediation program is available by calling WMU's Office of Professional Programs and Conferences at (616) 387-4174 or Geasler at (616) 387-3715.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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