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 assists two or more parties in resolving conflict.
The mediator helps the parties to:
• Listen to each other in a respectful way; • Understand each other's perspectives; • Define areas of agreement and disagreement; and • Move forward toward resolution.
Each mediation is different. Generally, mediation begins as a conversation around a table. A top priority is making sure the parties feel at ease. The core phases of mediation include: the mediator's introductory remarks explaining what mediation is, opening statements in joint session by the parties that identify the issues, in depth discussion and problem solving, private sessions with each party if beneficial, and drafting the agreement if a settlement is reached. 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 help the parties write up 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. Rather, the mediator listens to each person’s perspective, facilitates communication between the parties, helps each party to understand the other’s perspective, and focuses on empowering the parties to create mutually agreeable solutions to defined issues and problems.
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 for child abuse and threatened criminal acts;
• Control -- the parties have control over the outcome in mediation; in litigation, a judge or jury makes a decision for the parties;
• 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 and prolonged litigation; and
• Support -- mediators are trained to be neutral and to help facilitate so that the parties are able to come up with creative solutions to identified issues.