Being the change we need to see
MACM was founded in 1985 when Mary Beth Gersich, Sharon Tillman, Julie Haveman, Marti VanHeake, Peter Stathakis and others recognized a need for a special state-wide organization to represent the interests of employees of the Friend of the Court doing divorce mediation under the Friend of the Court Act. In general, the decade of the 80’s was an exciting time in the world of mediation. The Michigan Legislature made its first serious revisit to the Friend of the Court Act of 1919; recreating the office in its own image, but with additions. A Friend of the Court Bureau was established in Lansing to “supervise” the local offices and child support guidelines were to be standardized, more importantly, each FOC Office would be required to offer mediation of custody and parenting time disputes. In the event a local FOC office not having personnel with the necessary required educational background, that office would be required to sub-let the disputes to trained persons in the community. Almost overnight it seemed, psychiatrists, psychologists, attorneys, social workers, T.V. broadcast personalities and a few FOC investigators were falling over each other, clamoring for the chance to pay $700 for 40 hours of training in divorce mediation. The concept of mediation had caught on elsewhere in the nation a little earlier. Dr. John Haynes, A.J. Coogler and others had already published landmark textbooks on the subject. A Wayne County based Alternative Dispute Resolution Group offered the 40 hour training, bringing in Jessica Pearson from Denver and other trainers from the East Coast. The group held its first annual membership meeting in Plymouth with almost 900 paid members in attendance. Everywhere it was contemplated that divorce in Michigan would never be the same; certainly it would no longer be the financial province of solely divorce attorneys.
While the professionals were quick to embrace mediation as a concept, the public was not. Besides, the public could get custody and parenting time mediation FREE at the local Friend of the Court office.
Initially, the founders of MACM were interested only in “pure” mediation as a voluntary method of dispute resolution. In 1989 MACM, with the assistance of the State Court Administrative Office, published a “Mediation Guidebook” of some 110 pages detailing mediation methods. The SCAO offered mediation training of its own and from the beginning MACM has received encouragement from almost all of the local Friend of the Court Administrators.
As Judges became aware of this new dispute resolution tool, they began to realize that they could simply order parties into “mediation” and the practice began a process of metamorphosis into the many forms we see today. Some of them are far from “voluntary”, but they get the job done.
Slowly, MACM became an organization, not only of mediators, but of custody investigators, child support workers and anyone else who meets jointly with parties in an attempt to ease dispute resolution. MACM has been encouraged by attendance at its annual training conference held each September at Higgins Lake. Over the years many fine presenters have been brought in including Dr. John Haynes of New York; Larry Fong of Winnipeg, Donald Saposnek of California, Officers of the Academy of Family Mediators and College Professors who teach mediation concepts.
MACM has its own Constitution, a set of bylaws and a Board of Directors/Elected at the Annual Membership meeting held in conjunction with the training conference. Officers are elected by the 12 Member Board and include a President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer. Board meetings are convened in alternate months at a central location in Mt. Pleasant. (Editor’s Note: Since 2005, the MACM Board has been meeting at the Hall of Justice in Lansing.) Formal minutes are kept of all meetings of the association and are governed by Roberts Rules of Parliamentary Procedure.
In addition, since 1999, the membership has authorized, and the board has elected to employ an Executive Director who chairs a professional and legislative committee of the board. The Executive Director monitors and reports on a regular basis, to the board and the membership all new legislative, pending legislation and case law relative to Friend of the Court operations, including the Child Custody Act, Parenting Time, Mediation and Child Support. (Editor’s note: When Jack Weigand left as Executive Director in 2005 his position was not filled. MACM no longer has an Executive Director)
A Newsletter is published on a regular basis by the association webmaster. This Newsletter usually has case law reviews, book reviews and articles of interest in addition to notices of educational training opportunities offered by sister organizations such as the Wisconsin Assoc. of Mediators, the Illinois Mediation Association and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. The Executive Director is available for cooperation with other professional organizations and, in the past, has offered testimony to Legislative Committees on behalf of MACM, in support of, or opposition to pending legislation