Mediation is a voluntary process that allows disputants to settle disputes without giving control of the dispute resolution to an outside decision maker such as a judge or jury. In mediation, a dispute is solved by the people involved in the conflict, and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis in an atmosphere of cooperation, flexibility and respect for each other’s interests. Mediation is more cost-effective than litigation and is usually a faster, less stressful way to resolve conflicts.
Before mediation begins, participants should consider carefully what their concerns are and how those concerns relate to broader issues of importance to them. They should also be prepared to explore a range of possible solutions to their dispute, and remain flexible and open-minded.Typically, a mediator will schedule a joint session to introduce themselves and explain how the mediation process works. During this session, the mediator will listen to each side’s point of view and clarify any differing views of facts that may exist. The mediator will also discuss the logistics of the case (e.g., who will attend the sessions, whether experts are needed to help evaluate the evidence, and if the mediation can be held by phone).After the joint session, mediators will often begin the second stage of the mediation process – a series of meetings with each party called caucuses. Caucuses allow the mediator to explore potential avenues for resolution and help the parties identify possible ways of resolving their conflict, while at the same time ensuring that all discussions remain confidential. The mediator can then help the parties reduce their discussion to a written settlement agreement that they will sign at the end of the mediation.