What Is Mediation?
Mediation brings people in conflict (the participants) together with a neutral third person (the “mediator”) who assists the participants in reaching a voluntary agreement. The mediator helps the participants clarify the issues, consider their options and, hopefully, reach a workable settlement that fits their needs. The participants, not the mediator, develop and determine the resolution. If desired by the participants, their verbal agreement may be formalized in a binding written agreement that is later filed with the court.
Mediation Assistance, including:
Serving as mediators to assist disputing parties to resolve conflicts confidentially and in more creative and less expensive ways than might be possible if left to a decision by a judge or jury
Recommending, designing, and implementing dispute resolution processes tailored specifically for a client’s needs
Developing a model for identifying potential conflicts and resolving avoidable clashes
Recommending other mediators whom we believe to be better suited for a particular individual or for resolving a specific issue
What are some advantages to mediation?
Participants in mediation make the decision: The responsibility and authority for coming to an agreement remain with the people who have the conflict. The dispute is viewed as a problem to be solved. The mediator does not make the decisions. Instead, it is up to the participants to reach an agreement. Most individuals prefer making their own choices. Rather than giving that power to a judge and taking their chances in the courtroom, mediation allows the participants to decide how to solve their issues.
Mediation focuses on the participants’ needs and interests: The mediator assists the participants in examining the underlying causes of the problem, and developing and evaluating the solutions that best suit their unique needs and satisfy their respective interests.
Mediation helps salvage the participants’ continuing relationship: Neighbors, divorcing parents, supervisors and their employees, business partners, and family members must continue to interact with each other cooperatively. Although going to court results in a decision on the issues, the process often divides people and increases hostility. Mediation focuses on maintaining the continuing interaction between the participants while resolving the conflict between them. This focus helps end the problem, not the relationship.
Mediation recognizes the participants’ individuality: Each participant is given an opportunity to relate his or her story in his or her own way. Discussing both legal and personal issues may assist the participants in reaching a new level of understanding with respect to themselves and the circumstances in which they are involved. This understanding can enhance the participants’ ability to resolve the issues.
Mediation results in greater satisfaction: Mediation participants are usually able to reach an agreement that resolves their issues. The resolution process results in higher satisfaction rates than those experienced by people who go to court. In addition, because of the participants’ active involvement in reaching a solution, they often have a greater commitment to upholding the agreement than do people who let a judge make the decision for them.
Are there more advantages to mediation?
Mediation is flexible: Mediation does not rely on and is not limited by specific points of law. Instead, the participants develop their own solutions to resolve their conflict. In a legal proceeding, the court makes judgments based solely on “the law.” For example, there are legal limitations on what factors the judge may consider in making his or her decision. As a result, the judge may be unable to address the genuine issues or causes of a dispute and, therefore, may not focus on or address individual circumstances.
Mediation is informal: Mediation is a much less intimidating process than going to court. Since there are no strict rules of procedure, the participants and the mediator can work together to determine the best process for reaching an agreement. In addition, the mediation process can accommodate multiple participants and a variety of issues at one time.
Mediation can resolve issues much more quickly than going to court: While months, or even years, may pass before a case comes to trial, a mediated agreement can be obtained in a several hours or in several sessions.
Mediation costs less: The court process is expensive, and the costs involved in a court proceeding can exceed the amount of damages incurred or the benefits sought by a participant. Rather than incurring substantial fees and costs in a court proceeding, it is often more important to apply that money to solving the problem, to repairing damages, or to paying someone back. If the participants are unable to fully resolve all issues through mediation, they may still reach a partial agreement which could reduce the costs if they pursue full resolution through a court proceeding.
Mediation is private: Unlike most court cases, which are matters of public record, most mediations are confidential.
What are the processes involved?
There are many different styles of mediation and each mediator’s personal style is different. However, most mediators follow a similar process which includes:
Conducting a private intake interview with each participant;
Determining whether the participants will meet together with the mediator or will instead meet in separate rooms with the mediator going back and forth between them;
Formally explaining the mediation process to the participants and establishing the ground rules of the mediation session;
Helping the participants identify the issues;
Assisting the participants to develop and evaluate potential solutions; and
Reducing the participants’ verbal agreement to a written, binding document.