Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution which is informal and gives both sides a chance to be heard. The parties work together to reach a satisfactory solution or compromise that they can both accept, without having a decision forced upon them by a third party. The third party in mediation is the mediator, a neutral party who facilitates the negotiation, helps keep the discussion on track, and helps the parties work together to find a solution.
Mediation is often used to resolve disputes and legal matters such as:
- Family law such as divorce and child custody
- Disputes between neighbors
- Landlord/tenant disputes
- Conflicts between roommates
- Contract disputes
- Disputes between owners of a business
- Employment disputes
- Environmental issues
- Conflicts within the community, such as between businesses or a business and group of residents
- Some criminal matters
A mediator is a professional negotiator who does not represent the interests of either party, but facilitates communication, offers possible solutions, and helps them come to an agreement.
As a neutral third party, the mediator may be able to get to the bottom of the problem in ways that just cannot happen in court. As both sides tell their story, the underlying sources of the conflict are often revealed leading to alternative solutions that are more satisfying to both parties than the win-lose outcome and monetary award which typically results from litigation.
It is not always necessary for the parties to meet in person during mediation. The mediator can act as a go-between instead.
Mediation vs. Arbitration
Mediation is a negotiation and the mediator help out, but does not make decisions for you. Arbitration is more formal. It is more like a mini-trial, and a third party decides the outcome based on the evidence and arguments presented by both sides.
Mediation gives you much more control over the process. However, in some cases the parties cannot reach an agreement through mediation. Your mediator’s creativity and skill as a negotiator can make a big difference in the success or failure of mediation.
Benefits of Mediation
Mediation is faster and less expensive than litigation, and the results are private rather than a matter of public record.
It is often appropriate when one or more parties involved wants to avoid the emotional trauma of a lengthy legal battle, or in cases such as child custody, when you want to shield your family from the pain and struggle of the adversarial court process.
Mediation can be very effective in cases where one or more parties have a strong emotional attachment to the outcome or issues involved in the conflict. Sometimes the biggest factor in a dispute is the need to have your say. Mediation provides that opportunity and opens up a dialogue between the parties fostering positive results for both sides which would not be possible in court.