Contributed by: Mary Schneider
Many same-sex couples have had negative experiences with law, lawyers, or the justice system generally (e.g. lack of protection from discrimination or gay bashing, lack of legal recognition of their relationships, lack of access to court to pursue their rights). When mediating same-sex couples who are separating, mediators should not make assumptions or sweeping generalizations about same-sex couples. Diversity among same-sex couples is as broad as different-sex couples. Mediators should broaden the concept of family to one that embraces people who live together or provide care and support, rather than simply those who are related by blood or by marriage. Mediators should be sensitive to sources of conflict that are external to the couple relationship, and Mediators should explore the unique life courses of same-sex couples, including their life expectations, life experiences, and challenges with separation, given their current life stage and social context. Most importantly, mediators should make mediation a place that is supportive, non judgmental, and free of bias, to allow an encouraging environment that same-sex couples will feel is a fair place and process to deal with the unique challenges that same-sex couples may face.