What is Mediation?

Mediation is the process in which the parties to a dispute come before a neutral person to attempt to reach a resolution. Mediation is often presented as an alternative to litigation, where the parties fight in court about the dispute. Mediation should be distinguished from arbitration, where the parties engage a neutral person to make a decision about their dispute. A mediator does not decide on a winner, but instead helps the parties reach a compromise.

What are the benefits of mediation?

The alternative to mediation is often litigation or arbitration. These processes are usually very stressful, take a long time to resolve, and can get very expensive very quickly. (Arbitration tends to take less time and be less expensive than litigation but this is not always the case.) In mediation, the parties take control of finding a solution to their dispute that they can live with rather than gambling that a judge will see things 100% their way. Thus, mediation can be a quicker, more cost-effective way to resolve disputes. The parties in mediation can consider options that are not always available to the judge in resolving a litigated dispute. The outcome of mediation is often better in many ways than the possible outcomes of trial.

What else should I know about mediation?

  • Mediation is voluntary. The mediator cannot force the parties to agree on anything. Mediation works best when the parties negotiate in good faith to reach a compromise.
  • Mediation discussions are privileged, meaning that it cannot be used in court to hurt you or help you. The facts themselves are not privileged, but the comments made about them and the positions taken with regard to settlement are protected under the law. The mediator agrees to keep all details of the mediation confidential.
  • The mediator does not take sides or make a decision. The mediator listens, facilitates, and helps the parties see things from a different perspective. The mediator encourages the parties to consider the benefits of any proposed resolution and the potential drawbacks to continuing with litigation as a means to seek resolution of the dispute.