Get access

The social worker as family mediator: Balancing power in cases involving family violence


David Flynn, BSW, is a graduate from the School of Social Work, University of Melbourne. He is currently a counsellor/caseworker at Yarra Valley Community Health Service, Melbourne. Email:


This paper explores power differentials in family mediation, with particular regard to cases involving family violence. The issue of power balancing is examined in relation to the neutrality of the mediator, which is discussed in the context of the social work profession. The paper argues that social workers have a clear ethical responsibility to support and empower the weaker party during family mediation. The paper examines the issue of family violence, where power differentials are at their most extreme, and the debate as to whether cases involving family violence are appropriate for family mediation. The paper argues that, given the high incidence of family violence in contemporary society, and the inadequacies of the traditional adversarial court process, these families should not be prevented from accessing the benefits of mediation. Techniques for mediating in cases involving family violence are presented.