Mediation is an informal, private process to help parties discuss, define, and resolve their dispute. The parties control the result of their mediation, using a mediator–an impartial person–to guide the process. The mediator does not make decisions for the parties.
- At the start of mediation, the mediator meets with all parties, explains the goals of the mediation and asks the parties to agree on ground rules, keeping private what occurs in the mediation;
- The parties briefly summarize the dispute;
- The mediator meets with the parties privately to better understand their viewpoints;
- The mediator helps the parties identify their interests and think about solutions;
- If the parties agree on a solution, the agreement is put into writing and signed by the parties.
- More Control Over the Outcome. When a judge decides a court case, usually one party wins and one party loses. Mediation steps away from the win/lose model, allows for a wider discussion of the issues, and searches for solutions that everyone can accept.
- Private. Courts are generally open to the public. Mediation is a private process.
- Faster. You can usually schedule a mediation session sooner than you can an appearance in court.
- Informal. The Rules of Evidence and other requirements of a court proceeding do not apply.
- Maintains Relationships. Parties may need to have regular contact after their dispute is resolved (family and business matters, for example). To avoid future disputes, mediated agreements often include provisions governing how the parties will deal with one another after mediation. Sometimes, the parties agree to return to mediation if another dispute arises.
Mediators come from many different backgrounds, with different training and experience. If you want a specific mediator, or a mediator with a specific area of expertise, you may prefer to hire a private mediator. Private mediators may advertise a specialty or a professional reputation for specializing in the mediation of certain types of disputes.
Many disputes are successfully decided at community mediation centers. These include disputes involving neighbors, business partners, merchants, consumers, divorcing couples, work colleagues, and many others. Judges often refer cases that are already in court to community mediation centers.
Private mediators should provide information regarding their training, experience, and fees. Community mediation centers provide training for their mediators. Fees for private mediators are generally higher than fees charged by community mediation centers. For a more detailed guide to selecting a mediator, please see our booklet, “Selecting a Mediator.”
Effective mediation requires two-way communication. Most importantly, this means:
- Honestly expressing your needs
- Listening to what the other party needs
The keys to a successful mediation are:
We suggest the following approaches to help reach an agreement:
- Approach mediation with a positive attitude
- Be open to new ideas and suggestions
- Seek agreement, not blame or revenge
- Look to the future, not to the past
- Express yourself and listen carefully to what others say
- Bring all relevant documents
- Be realistic about whether or not you can live up to proposals that you make