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    This week’s question:
    I hate to admit this, but we have a huge problem with our teenager. My instinct is to file a huge lawsuit for a restraining order but there must be a better way. Do you have any practical, cheap ideas?
    /s/Mary Ann A.
    Almaden Valley

    Dear Mary Ann:
    I have hunch you are not alone, Mary Ann, in dealing with your teenager. Although we at our house had two of the best teenagers in the world (smile), not everyone is so fortunate.
    Your first instinct just might be as you said in your email to me—to file a huge law suit for a restraining order of some kind. A restraining order and/or injunction might just be very difficult to obtain, extremely difficult to enforce, and could well be money down the proverbial drain.
    I have a different idea that just might work. No guarantees, of course, but you might look into the Dispute Resolution Program sponsored by the County of Santa Clara.
    What kind of cases to they handle? It is my understanding that they help with many different types of cases, including neighborhood disputes, housing issues, small claims cases, harassment, and yes, even parent/teen problems.
    Other situations also come up from time to time, such as when you have wanted to deal more effectively with difficult people or situations, been angry with someone but not sure how to handle it, and many other scenarios.
    The heart of the county program is mediation. Just how does mediation work? A trained mediator will be assigned to your case when you contact the county office. Each party is contacted by the professional mediator to discuss settlement strategies that may include:
    (1) Mediation—-a process by which the conflicting parties come together with a trained professional neutral who works with them to reach mutually agreeable solutions.

    (2) Conciliation—a mediation process conducted through shuttle diplomacy, often over the telephone, without direct contact between the mediating parties.

    (3) Facilitations—a process offered in a variety of settings to assist in resolving multiparty problems by assisting in group planning sessions or developing group strategies for long-range change.

    Mediation is often fast, successful, and is always confidential. You and the other party maintain control over your concerns and the mediator helps you create your own solutions. It is not like a court room where the judge might impose a decision that both or all sides need to follow, like it or not.
    If you are thinking about filing a lawsuit, you are undoubtedly looking as several thousand dollars in legal fees and other court costs, a 12-18 month process for civil discovery, case management conferences, trial setting conferences, and the like. And, at the “end”, the “loser” might appeal.
    The mediation process encourages a cooperative spirit and discourages hostility. Mediations create a win-win solution. No one is judged right or wrong.
    The program also has services for schools and youth, such as peer conflict manager training and even training for the entire school. You might also be interested in parent/youth communication programs that strengthen positive communication techniques and to identify and prioritize issues between parents and youth.
    The Santa Clara County Dispute Resolution Program is offered on a sliding scale fee basis and is generally much less costly than litigation and can often save thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees and court filing fees.
    If you are interested, you can call 408-792-2300 and talk with the DRP intake person who can help you decide how to proceed. The Dispute Resolution Program is part of the Office of Human Relations of the County of Santa Clara and its address is: 2310 N. First Street, Suite 100, San Jose, CA 95131.
    I hope I have given you some ideas for a creative, positive solution, Mary Ann. In the meantime, hang in there and do not give up on your teenager, under any circumstances.

    /s/ Donald J. DeVries
    Almaden Valley

    You can reach Mr. DeVries with your questions by email at don@almadenvalleylawyers.com, with “Almaden Times” in the subject line, fax at (408)268-6502, telephone at (408)268-9500, or mail at DeVries Law Office at 6475 Camden Avenue, Suite 200, San Jose, CA 95120. Your name will not be used. No attorney-client relationship is created by these articles.

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