Stefanie Beninato

Mediations Unlimited

A Dispute Resolution Service
Espanola, New Mexico 87532


Collaborative Law, Contract, Divorce, Employment, Environmental, Family, Insurance, Partnership Disputes, Public Policy, Real Estate, Trusts and Estates, Workplace

Stefanie Beninato is a mediator/lawyer in the state of New Mexico . Beninato has over 500 hours of training including divorce, workplace,  Equal Employment Opportunity, victim-offender, probate, environmental and parent-teen training. She has mediated over 520 cases, both privately and through courts and public agencies.


Types of cases with which she is familiar include family, divorce, workplace, Equal Employment Opportunity, real estate contracts, construction contracts, general contracts, landlord-tenant and neighbor problems, victim-offender.


She has also facilitated discussion of the following issues: health, education, environmental, water, and land use.  Beninato has also arbitrated consumer cases for the Better Business Bureau.


Beninato also has a Ph.D. in history which she feels gives her a perspective on why mediation is important. She also has a law degree which reinforces her belief in the efficacy of mediation.

What are dispute resolution services?

Conflict resolution services offer a variety of means for parties having a dispute to resolve it.  They include advocacy, arbitration, coaching, facilitation, mediation, binding mediation (med-arb) and/or wiseperson process. 

All these methods rely on facilitated conversations of one sort or another. In all forms, the parties have the opportunity to present their point of view and relevant information.  These methods can provide a permanent solution, without going to court, and depending on the type of method used, it can be achieved at one meeting/hearing.


What is advocacy?

Advocacy is when a neutral third-party trained in communication skills attends meetings with a party and acts as that party’s spokesperson.  The advocate in consultation with the party will help negotiate a satisfactory settlement to the dispute.


What is a coach?

A coach is a neutral third-party who will help a party acting as their own representative in a dispute or legal claim.  That neutral third party will help the person practice how to communicate so the person can get their needs met.  If the party wants, a coach can attend meetings with the party but generally the party is the main communicator and the coach gives advice privately.  A coach may also be able to answer questions about the information sought on a form for a legal action.


What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a process where the parties refer the dispute to a neutral third party who will hear the case and make a final and binding decision, called an award.  Generally this method is the clearest way to come to a resolution of a dispute.  The arbitrater acts more like a judge but the process is less formal than court. It is often in the form of a facilitated dialogue in which presentations are given followed by a question and answer periods.  The parties help create procedural process through the agreement to arbitrate and are encouraged to offer solutions. Some arbitration programs allow the consumer to appeal the decision to court; however, generally the parties agree that the decision of the arbitrater is final and binding.


What is facilitation?

A neutral third party is hired by a group/organization or convenor to help facilitate discussion about some agreed upon topic.  The organization usually proposes the topic although it often is the role of the facilitator to clarify the goals of the organization.  It can be part of the facilitator’s role to help the key participants (eg board) articulate the purpose of the meeting prior to facilitation.  Generally a facilitator’s role also includes: developing an agenda; facilitating the meeting/retreat to keep it on the agreed agenda and so that everyone in organization/group can participate fully; documenting the meeting so key points particularly goals, methods, actions and implementation are captured; follow-up.

Facilitation may also be used in contract negotiation.


What is mediation?

Mediation is a process by which a neutral third party facilitates a conversation between or among parties so the parties can reach a mutually acceptable resolution to their dispute.  Mediation is voluntary; the mediator does not make the decision for the parties, unless using one of the methods noted on this fact sheet. The mediator is in charge of the process and helps the parties articulate their needs and their solutions. This process helps improve communication skills, builds trust and respect and is particularly important in ongoing relations. The agreement when reached, drawn up to the satisfaction of the parties, and signed is binding and may be used as the basis for contracts, dissolution of marriage, child support etc.


What is binding mediation?

Binding mediation (also called med-arb) is a hybrid conflict resolution process. The parties select a neutral third-party who will act as both mediator and arbitrator. The parties agree that they will mediate as many items as they possibly can with the help of a third party neutral. Because that third party has heard all the information presented and discussions about the issues, that person decides the unresolved issues. This method is also designed to have an end point and finality to the process.


Conciliatory binding mediation can also be an agreement by which the parties agree that they will continue to mediate and explore different solutions until there is mutual agreement.  This type of mediation is often used in divorce and child custody/support issues as well as in community and water issues. The parties agree not to litigate but to continue to return to mediation until the issue is resolved.  It will be the mechanism that is followed if other issues arise. The parties may also opt for a wiseperson process.


What is the wiseperson process?

This conflict resolution process is a hybrid. In many ways, it resembles arbitration described above, but is much more like a facilitated conversation.  In reality, it operates more like the mediator/arbitrator described in the binding mediation described above. The parties select a neutral third-party who will listen to each person and look at the evidence.  Often when possible, the wiseperson will point out items that there is agreement on and work from the parties’ expression of interests and needs.

Often in conciliatory binding mediation, the wiseperson will be present as part of the team; initially that person’s role is to listen, serve as a reminder about process and balancing the process. If necessary, that wiseperson will resolve the issues the parties decide that they themselves cannot.  Any participant can request the wiseperson to make a decision on a particular matter at any time or when there is an impasse toward the end of the process.

Stefanie Beninato, Ph.D., J.D.
P. O. Box 1601
Santa Fe, NM 87504-1601
Phone: (505) 988-8022


Peace is not the absence of conflict.  Peace is the presence of communication, respect and justice.