Types of Disputes

Restorative Practices

Peacemaking Court  

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Based on the Native American Tribal Court system, it is a process that facilitates decision making and problem solving that is harmonious, balanced and integrative for the individuals, families and community, instead of the traditional adversarial approach.


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Restorative Practices/Peer Mediation Program

Peer mediation involves training students to become mediators and problem solve student to student conflict.  The student mediators are trained to be neutral third parties who resolved conflict in a positive manner.

Restorative Justice is based on a philosophy of “repairing harm” through accountability, instead of “taking punishment.”  The process addresses significant misbehavior and situations where there is a clear victim and offender.


Special Education Services

Issues which arise between parents of students with disabilities and school personnel are often challenging and emotional. Although everyone wants the best educational program for each student, not everyone always agrees on what is best.  The Dispute Resolution Center offers the following services to parents and schools, free of charge:

 a.) Mediation

The Michigan Special Education Mediation Program (MSEMP) provides parents and schools with Special Education Dispute Resolution services free of charge in every county throughout Michigan. Common disputes mediated include:  evaluation, eligibility for services, educational programs, placement, disciplinary issues, procedural safeguards and other matters that may interfere with the successful delivery of Special Education Services. Mediation is voluntary, confidential, and can result in a written, signed agreement that may be incorporated into an Individualized Educational Program (IEP), or an Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP).

 b.) Facilitation

Neutral facilitators can help parents and schools work together  to plan for students with special needs.  Facilitation is used for IFSP,  IEP and Resolution Meetings.  Facilitators can organize meetings so participants can focus on the issues, contribute ideas and work toward solutions.  Facilitation ensures that meetings stay student-focused, clarify points of agreement and disagreement, model effective communication and listening, support all parties in participating fully, and encourage parents and schools to identify new options to address unresolved problems.


School Attendance

The purpose of the School Attendance Mediation Program (formerly known as Truancy Prevention Mediation Program) is to address a student’s high occurrence of unexcused absences in a supportive, non-punitive way. With the help of a mediator -- who acts as a neutral third party -- families and school staff will meet in a confidential and private setting to identify the issues that become barriers to consistent school attendance. Once these barriers are identified, everyone will work together to identify a solution. The mediator will not take sides or decide who is right or wrong.

The DRC has partnered with schools in the Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor districts to provide this service at NO COST to the families or district. This service is supported by private donors and a grant award from the James A. and Faith Knight Foundation.


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Mediation is less combative than litigation and helps to preserve the part of the relationship necessary to co-parent or re-address issues afterwards.  Domestic relations mediation can be used to address: custody and visitation, support, and debt matters.

Since mediation is directed by the parties present, you are not required to have an attorney.  However, we encourage parties to speak to an attorney before coming to mediation and to allow attorneys to review agreements before signing them, if attorneys are not present for the mediation.

Mediation works well for many families. However, when issues such as violence, drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness are a part of the circumstances, a different forum may need to be used to make decisions for your family.


When parents and/or teens are experiencing conflict with each other, often times the assistance of a neutral third party can help. The mediator does not take sides, or decide who is right or wrong. Instead the mediator will allow each person to talk about the problem from his/her perspective without judgment or interruption; help each person listen better; assist with identifying the issues; and help the parent and child brainstorm possible solutions that work best for the family.

Typical issues that are addressed in mediation are curfews, household chores, friends, and activities, just to name a few. If you are having difficulty in communicating with your teen or parent, consider mediation.


Adult Guardianship/Caregiver
Our mediators have advanced training in Adult Guardianship  situations. Typical issues that are addressed: Health/medical care, financial decisions, living arrangements, family relationships, including who should be the decision-maker or the care provider, respite care and support, discharge or transitional plans from hospitals or nursing homes and grandparents caring for grandchildren, family caregiving disputes.


Child Guardianship
Our mediators are specially trained to mediate cases involving child guardianship situations. Typical issues that are addressed: Visitation, financial support, relationship issues with parents, transitional issues, disputes between guardian and minor, school issues, and pre-adoption issues.


If you and your family are experiencing a dispute regarding an estate of a loved one, consider mediation. Typical issues are disagreement with the personal representative, distribution of the estate, or poor communication among the heirs.


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The relationship between a landlord and tenant is often far more complicated than simply whether the rent is paid on time.  When landlords and tenants read leases, they often have very different interpretations as to the meaning of provisions.  They also often have different understandings about the legal rights of landlords and tenants.  These misunderstandings can lead to assumptions that result in disagreements that eventually lead to court.

Sometimes court doesn't offer the best solution. Even if the landlord wins, there is no guarantee that they will see any money or that a better tenant will be found. Neither is there a guarantee from the tenant's perspective that their living situation will improve. There is also the lost time and money that results as a landlord finds a new tenant and the tenant finds and moves to a new place. Through mediation, the disagreement can become an opportunity to resolve the issue, repair the relationship, and mutually agree upon a plan or set of expectations for the future.

At the DRC, we guide the parties through a proven process that gets the people involved to talk about the issues that are important to them, helps them to look at the issues in a different light, generates options that perhaps they've never considered before, and puts any agreements made in writing so that everyone involved knows exactly the nature of their agreement. More importantly, we do all of that in a confidential format and without taking sides.


The Dispute Resolution Center helps neighbors resolve their disputes voluntarily, safely, confidentially, and as economically as possible. We use proven facilitative mediation methods and a trained, neutral conflict manager to help people achieve results that are mutually beneficial.

The traditional "win-lose" method of enforcement through litigation, police complaints, or administrative complaints often fails to address the underlying issues in a dispute. Sometimes people get too caught up in trying to prove they are right and someone else is wrong. Their personalities and assumptions they've made along the way can get in the way. Many, many times people file complaints with their neighbors, the police, or the court to no avail.

Mediation helps people talk about what's important to them, feel heard, and get to the heart of the matter in less time and with less money spent than the traditional alternatives. Sometimes people can resolve their neighbor issues by simply talking directly with their neighbors. The DRC can help resolve neighbor issues involving:

Noise, fences, parking, vandalism, animal complaints, pet control, property damage and maintenance, harassment, minor assaults, conflicts over money and personal property.


In the world of business, when things don't go as expected, people often don't see eye as to how to resolve their disappointment. Sometimes Consumers and Merchants feel like they're speaking different languages. They feel frustrated when one another's priorities seem to be set at different levels. Many times Consumer Merchant issues end up in court, which serves to escalate the conflict and exacerbate the underlying issues without really resolving them.

The DRC utilizes trained professionals to resolve issues between Consumers and Merchants before they get worse. Many consumer/merchant cases get resolved through the DRC every year, ranging in value from a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars.

We utilize mediation, conciliation, facilitation, and other conflict management methods to assist our clients. We do it all in a safe, confidential, and informal atmosphere. Some of the issues we help resolve involve:

  • contract disputes (simple and complex)
  • cases of miscommunication
  • payment disputes
  • product satisfaction and safety issues
  • service satisfaction issues

At the DRC, we guide the parties through a proven process that gets the people involved to talk about the issues that are important to them, helps them to look at the issues in a different light, generates options that perhaps they've never considered before, and puts any agreements made in writing so that everyone involved knows exactly the nature of their agreement.


Small Claims
The DRC has partnered with the 14A District Court to provide mediation services to all people who have a small claims case.  The judges have found that when people try mediation first they usually can reach a satisfactory agreement. Therefore, all small claims cases in 14A are ordered to mediation before going before the magistrate. There is no charge to the parties for mediation conducted by the Center when it is ordered by the 14A District Court.

If you have a small claims dispute but you have not yet filed with the Small Claims Court, you may also wish to pursue mediation as an alternative to litigation. Please contact our office and speak to mediation services coordinator. Remember that by coming to mediation does not mean you give up your right to go to court if your case is not resolved.

Our small claims mediators have fulfilled the mediator requirements with the Michigan Community Dispute Resolution Program. If you are interested in requesting mediation outside of the Court process, you can directly contact The Dispute Resolution Center by call The DRC for a phone consultation with a coordinator at 734-794-2125 in Washtenaw, or in Livingston County 517-546-6007.


Civil Rights
Our mediators have had significant training in dealing with multi-cultural issues, working with situations involving race, religion, sexual identity, disability, age and cultural background.  The DRC mediates Civil Rights cases referred by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR).


Organizations/multi-party; The DRC provides facilitation services to help foster meaningful group discussions and decision making.  Our facilitators are superior because they know how to use process and stay out of content.  If you need support in developing an agenda, ensuring that all group members are engaged, and making good group decisions, consider this service.  The cost of The DRC Facilitator is negotiable so please contact the center to schedule an appointment.

The DRC will not mediate disputes which involve the use of threat or violence or in situations where drug and alcohol abuse or mental illness are part of the problem.