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10 Ways to Live Restoratively

By: Laura Patten, Civil Court Mediation Intern

In reflection, it is important to remember that although there have been times when others have done you wrong, it is also important to admit your own faults. There may have been times when you have done things that, looking back, could have been done differently in order to prevent feelings from getting hurt. There is no judgment of you. No one is perfect. 

However, to actively think of ways in which you can contribute to restore peace, here are some suggestions from Howard Zehr, one of the leading thinkers in Restorative Justice.  

1.    Take relationships seriously, envisioning yourself in an interconnected web of people, institutions and the environment.

2.    Try to be aware of the impact – potential as well as actual – of your actions on others and the environment.

3.    When your actions negatively impact others, take responsibility by acknowledging and seeking to repair the harm – even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it.  (To craft a letter of apology, see the Apology Letter website developed by Loreen Walker and Ben Furman.)

4.    Treat everyone respectfully, even those you don’t expect to encounter again, even those you feel don’t deserve it, even those who have harmed or offended you or others.

5.    Involve those affected by a decision, as much as possible, in the decision-making process.

6.    View the conflicts and harms in your life as opportunities.

7.    Listen, deeply and compassionately, to others, seeking to understand even if you don’t agree with them. (Think about who you want to be in the latter situation rather than just being right.)

8.    Engage in dialogue with others, even when what is being said is difficult, remaining open to learning from them and the encounter.

9.    Be cautious about imposing your “truths” and views on other people and situations.

10.  Sensitively confront everyday injustices including sexism, racism and classism.


Co-Parenting & Mediation

By: Laura Patten, Civil Court Mediation Intern

What comes next after divorce? What comes next for your children? Co-Parenting can be a difficult discussion. Even if your divorce was as mutual and respectful as possible, your children need a plan for this major shift in family dynamics and lifestyle. 

If talking to your former spouse one-on-one feels too overwhelming, do not feel life you have to discuss it alone. You have options! People would be surprised to find out that some of our mediations with our clients have been centered around co-parenting following a divorce. NVMS can provide divorced couples with a mediator to help create a more comfortable and safe environment for all parties involved to act as a facilitator in the discussion for your child's future moving forward. 

Not only does NVMS provide mediation services, we also provide classes on co-parenting!

NVMS has an upcoming class regarding co-parenting for open IV-D DCSE cases. We will be offering these classes a few times a month throughout the year.

The first class is April 25th, 2015 @8-30am-12:30pm at the NVMS Office (4041 University Dr. St.101, Fairfax VA). Breakfast will be included. If that date is not convenient, we have a second class on May 16th, 2015, same time and place. 

To register for this class, please contact Alessandra Cuccia. Phone: 703-865-7263. Email: 




Divorce Mediation

By: Laura Patten, Civil Court Mediation Intern

Divorce. Potentially, one of the ugliest legal processes out there. So the marriage with a spouse did not seem to work out. Between deciding who gets the kids, the house, or the cat, the legal hurdles within the court system can be a very overwhelming and costly for all parties involved. But what if the process could be made a little easier, and a little more comforting? Northern Virginia Mediation Service give you options. 

NVMS provides Divorce Mediation for the public, much like any of the other types of mediation we offer, successful mediation cases together draw up a mediation agreement, which include any provisions that all parties would agree to. This is a win-win situation, everybody!

There are many other benefits to divorce mediation.

The process provides plenty of time without draining your wallet of legal fees. Instead of charging a set fee for services like lawyers would, NVMS fees are set on a sliding scale based on the income you make. We do this to make mediation as accessible as possible no matter what your financial situation is. 

Divorce mediation also protects the integrity of the relationship between the parties. The goal in mediation is not only to work together to come to an agreement, but to also develop relations so that parties may work together civily in the future, especially around children. 

These are just a few of the many benefits to divorce mediation. If you think this might be the right track for you, feel free to call our office and schedule a meeting. We are here to support all parties involved no matter the issue.




Do you want to become a mediator?

By: Laura Patten, Court Mediation Intern

Did you know that you can become a certified court mediator with the Supreme Court of Virginia?

There are four areas of court mediation that you can become certified in: General District Court, Circuit Court - Civil, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, and Circuit Court - Family. 

If you have a Bachelor's Degree, you are eligible to take mediation certification courses. Experience or knowledge of the Virginia court system is not required in order to take the certification. You learn about the court system in the classes that you take to get your certification!

If you are interested in this opportunity, click here to learn more about the mediation certification program!


Mediation in the Workplace

By: Laura Patten, Court Mediation Intern

Why is it important to consider mediation in the workplace? 

The average full-time job requires you to work 35-40 hours per week. At most, that is close to 25% of your time during the week dedicated to being around and collaborating with your co-workers. If there is a conflict going on at work, this means you may be likely to think about the conflict 25% of a week's time, thinking and maybe not say anything about the issue. 

This is not good!

It is vital to keep open communication within the workplace so that everyone may work together to further the organization's mission. Mediation in the workplace offers one the opportunity to rekindle friendly relations with co-workers, negotiate, and find a solution that everyone can be satisfied with. 

If you want to consider workplace mediation, know that you have options. Human Resources is a great option for when you are looking for an unbias opinion, that is also familiar with the day to day functions and responsibilities within the working environment. Another option would include reaching out to third party mediation service to mediate any tension that is holding you back from producing the best work you can. 

Read more about mediation in the work place from the Guardian.


March is Mediation Month!

By: Laura Patten, Civil Court Mediation Intern

Governor McAuliffe made it official! The Governor sent us this official Certificate of Recognition to honor all of the mediators in the state of Virginia for their work in the courts and within other resolution centers.

We are very excited to make this our best month yet in providing more opportunities to the community as well as  learn more about Alternative Dispute Resolution practices.

Read more about the announcement here!


What is Restorative Justice?

By: Laura Patten, Civil Court Mediation Intern

Here at the Northern Virginia Mediation Service, we provide Restorative Justice Services for the community at large, the Fairfax County Public School system, as well as the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations court. We try to provide a comfortable environment for all parties involved in addressing sensitive issues that want to be resolved.

"Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders."


Learn more about Restorative Justice from our website or through!


A More Harmonious Style of Mediation

By: Laura Patten, Civil Court Mediation Intern 

"The art of peacemaking is in and of itself harmonious. To that end, peacemaking requires the agreement of all parties or it will not be effective. The Navajo and Korean mediation processes are similar in that they aim to restore harmony and rebuild relationships that have been strained by conflict. They are traditional approaches that have deep cultural bases that do not depend on authority to maintain peace, but actually seek out mediation as a means of collaboration and self-preservation."

There are many different types of mediation styles that our mediators at Northern Virginia Mediation Service use. Some cultures find it more comfortable to experience a mediation style that reflects their values and culture. Click here to learn more about Navajo and Korean styles of mediation process.


A Quick Thank You

Dear NVMS,

Thank you for recognizing the importance of teaching conflict resolution to today’s youth.

When I was a junior in high school, a freshman student I knew from my church youth group killed himself after a particularly rough week at school.  Knowing him from a very early age, I knew he had some rather severe emotional issues that made it challenging for him to communicate effectively with fellow students as well as teachers.  However, despite my understanding of his background I chose to avoid him and his problems rather than engage or try to help him.

The guilt I carry from that chapter of my life resurfaced recently while leading conflict resolution training with NVMS for the Alexandria Youth Leadership Conference and mediation training for the Fairfax County “Peace-it Together” Summit for high school and middle school aged students.  During these experiences I listened to sincere and thoughtful youth question the issues surrounding their lives and discuss ways in which they could make them better.  They wanted to learn ways to help those in need.  They wanted to make positive changes to their families, their schools, and their communities.  And they were willing to give those of us in the field of conflict resolution a chance to help them satisfy their noble desires. 

NVMS graciously offered its services to these outstanding events and I was honored they allowed me to participate while I finished up my Master’s in Negotiations and Dispute Resolution from Creighton University.  The experience and guidance NVMS provided contributed to outstanding reviews and feedback from students at both events.  Which makes me wonder…

If I had been given the opportunity to learn more about identifying conflict and the variety of ways to productively engage in conflict, would I have used what I learned to confront the troubled student I knew was struggling day in and day out?  Knowing what I know now, could I have asked the right questions or uncovered the interests driving the actions and outbursts of the kid everyone perceived as an outcast?  Would I have had the confidence and courage to speak up?  Would it have made a difference?  Would my friend be alive today? 

I’ll never know the answers to these questions, but I do believe that even providing a basic understanding of conflict resolution to our youth has the power to prevent them from having to ask themselves the same questions in the future.  I don’t have the data to back it up, but common sense tells me that students are the first line of defense in stopping the tragic violence we see happening at schools and communities across the nation.  They are the ones who know who is struggling.  They are the ones who see what’s happening when the adults aren’t looking.  And they are also the ones who are free from bureaucratically driven mandated processes and procedures for handling complex and personal situations.  However, they’re unlikely to grasp the skills of our field of study on their own. 

So all of this to say, thank you.  Thank to those who dedicate their time and their careers to the field of conflict resolution.  Thank you to NVMS for all that you do in the Northern Virginia area.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to work with you and participate in such ground-breaking and what I hope were life changing events for our community’s youth.  I can’t go back in time to give myself the knowledge, confidence, and courage needed to help my friend.  But we can give these gifts to someone else.  So once again, thank you for doing what you do.  And please know that you make a difference.


Chris Piercy, Creighton University Graduate Student


Interacting with Parties during Mediation

by Ben Jacewicz

Mediation involves four formal stages.  First, the mediator introduces the parties to the process.  Second, each party presents a narrative detailing her perspective.  Third, the mediator engages the parties in problem-solving activities, such as identifying mutual interests and brainstorming.  Finally, in the event the parties reach a settlement, they prepare a written agreement setting forth its terms and conditions.

Mediation also includes interactions outside of this formal process.  An example is the mediator speaking separately with each party before the mediation commences.  In doing so, he begins to learn about the dispute and demonstrates his commitment to working with the party to resolve it.  In addition, the party receives an opportunity to raise questions and concerns she may feel uncomfortable discussing in the other party’s presence. 

Conversations during breaks in the mediation are another example of interactions outside of the formal process.  When the parties have no personal relationship, which frequently is the case in strictly commercial transactions, the more relaxed atmosphere prevailing during these breaks should facilitate getting to know one another beyond the parameters of the current dispute.  The parties may discover that they share a common hobby, have children of similar ages or have traveled to the same places.  These discoveries can provide the impetus for building a foundation of mutual respect and trust, which are necessary ingredients to reaching an agreement.