The mediation process is a voluntary and confidential one that empowers the parties to a dispute to reach an agreement by mutual consent. A mediator is a trained neutral person and a facilitator who empowers two or more parties to resolve conflict.
The neutral mediator helps the parties to communicate and negotiate with each other and to:
• Identify the issues; • Brainstorm a number of solutions to each Issue, one issue at a time; • Evaluate each solution by asking questions and reality testing; and • Come to a joint decision on each issue.
Each mediation is different. Generally, mediation begins as a conversation around a table. Top priorities are making sure the parties feel safe and at ease, listen to each other in a respectful way, and understand each other's perspectives.The core phases of mediation include: (1) the mediator's introductory remarks explaining what mediation is, (2) opening discussion in joint session by the parties that identify the issues, (3) problem solving -- brainstorming solutions, evaluating those solutions by asking questions, and reality testing, and (4) private sessions (called caucuses) if beneficial.
The mediator does not share mediation discussions with anyone outside of the joint mediation session. The mediator will not disclose information discussed in a private session with anyone outside of the private session unless authorized to do so. The mediator will draft an agreement once the dispute has been resolved. The parties are encouraged to have a lawyer review any agreement that is reached. Agreements reached, when signed, are contracts that are legally binding.
The mediator does not take sides or make a decision for the parties. A mediator does not declare a winner or a loser, make findings of fact, rule on issues of law, or coerce parties to reach a settlement.
Benefits of Mediation
Advantages of mediation include:
• Cost -- mediation takes less time than litigation and is considerably less expensive;
• Confidentiality -- unlike litigation, mediation is completely confidential, with exceptions;
• Control -- the parties have control over the outcome in mediation. In litigation, a judge or jury makes a decision for the parties and the parties have no control over the outcome;
• Compliance -- a mediated agreement is enforceable by a court; compliance with the agreement is high because the parties have worked together to create the agreement;
• Mutuality -- when parties agree to mediate, they often are ready to meet somewhere in the middle or to make movement toward each other. The process of mediation allows for dignity and for relationships to be preserved, unlike contentious, adversarial, and prolonged litigation; and
• Support -- mediators are trained to be neutral and to help facilitate communication and negotiation so that the parties are able to come up with creative solutions to identified issues.