In a mediation, disputants meet with a neutral third person (the mediator) to find mutually acceptable solutions for a dispute. A mediator is trained in helping people resolve disputes by using specialized communication and negotiation skills.
Mediation can save time, money, and preserve relationships. It is less stressful than a trial and allows parties to control the outcome. The process is confidential and prevents public exposure of sensitive business or personal information.
It helps to keep hostility to a minimum by allowing the disputants to remain on good terms, and can allow the parties to retain important business or family connections that might otherwise be lost in a trial. This is especially important where there are children involved. It also provides a way to repair important business or family relationships that have been damaged by conflict and a lack of effective communication.
A Mediator’s job is to assist the parties in reaching a voluntary and mutually acceptable resolution of their dispute. To accomplish this, a Mediator needs to understand the hidden objectives of the disputants as well as the underlying conflict. To do this, a mediator must be able to listen attentively and without bias, keep disputants focused on resolving their dispute, provide creative problem-solving, help disputants focus on the issues in dispute rather than on personalities, provide an environment that encourages discussion and discovery of issues, use distraction techniques, question and investigate facts in order to gain understanding of the underlying conflict, be flexible and inventive, and attend to power dynamics.
Generally, mediation is conducted on neutral territory, rather than at the office of one of the disputants. The mediator will typically begin by receiving and seating the disputants, making introductions, and setting the ground rules for the session. The mediator will then typically ask the disputants to make opening statements. The mediator will then explore the issues in dispute with each party, asking questions and providing space for discussion. The parties will then begin to formulate and design a settlement that best meets their own goals and interests.
When the Parties have reached a settlement, they will usually form their own agreement and sign a written document stating the details of the settlement. If the Parties cannot reach an agreement or are at an impasse, the mediator may end the mediation session. Then the parties must decide what to do next – either:
Mediation is an excellent alternative to traditional litigation. It helps to preserve the integrity of delicate business and family relationships, avoids expensive legal fees, and can be completed in a short period of time. It also has the added benefit of a more satisfactory result for all parties because the responsibility and authority to come to an agreement still rests with the people who have the dispute, not with a judge or jury. In addition, mediation is private and confidential. If the matter does not settle, a litigant can always seek judicial determination by filing a lawsuit.