Carl Viniar — an interview

January 2017


1. Who are you? Where do you come from? What is your background?

I am originally from New York (born and raised in the Bronx).  I went to college at Cornell, to law school at Villanova, and then stayed in the Philadelphia area. I have called South Jersey home now for 40 years, but I am still a fan of New York sports teams. I received training in lawyering, and also in governing, communicating, transformation and spirituality, all of which go into my mediation practice.

2. What do your current professional practice and activities look like?

I founded the South Jersey Mediation Center in 1995, and continue to work at promoting and engaging in the practice of mediation. Over 1000 couples have successfully completed mediations that I facilitated. I have stopped actively practicing law, and retired from my full-time faculty position at Rutgers Law School. I continue to teach negotiation and conflict resolution as an adjunct in the Rutgers PMBA program, and negotiation in the Drexel University Institute for Strategic Leadership.

3. How did you first learn about mediation?

Actually, my sister trained in mediation when she was a Kellogg Fellow in the 1980s. I started doing divorce litigation in 1977 and was always on the lookout for other, better, and more peaceful alternatives. At some point early in my legal career, a local businessman and his wife asked me to make some recommendations and help them achieve a solution to the issues in their divorce (they were spending way too much money on their respective counsel, and fighting unnecessarily). We met together, without their attorneys, and called it a mediation. Although it was a success, it certainly was not the facilitative, transformational process I would now call mediation.

4. What do you hope to accomplish as a Board Member of APFM?

I want to see the advancement of the family mediator as a distinct professional. Acknowledging the diversity of backgrounds of people in the field, we need to be mediators, not lawyers, or therapists, or financial planners, or forest rangers who mediate.

5. Where do you see the field of Family Mediation going?

There are really two answers here for me. The glass half empty view is that, if we are not careful, diligent, and united, Family Mediation will eventually be co-opted, along with other forms of dispute resolution, into the court or legal system, to the point that most Family Mediation will look like judicial settlement conferences, or early settlement panels. My hopeful view, the one to which I am committed, and the reason I am on this Board, is that we see Family Mediation expanding exponentially, with certified family mediators being the first people divorcing couples turn to, and that the court and legal system become the Alternate Dispute Resolution system.

6. What do you like to do when you are not mediating?

When I am not mediating, or teaching, or training, I voraciously read mystery/detective/spy novels and go with my wife to every good movie that comes out, and every Broadway show we can afford. I am also entering the program to be ordained as a Rabbinic Pastor, through Aleph, the Alliance for Jewish Renewal. So, I am taking classes (I took my first final exams in 40 years!), learning Biblical Hebrew, and embarking on another exciting journey.

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