Mediation Frequently Asked Questions

What is mediation?

Mediation is a process where people involved in a dispute meet with a neutral, third party—a mediator—who is trained to guide them through a structured negotiation process. Mediators provide a safe, neutral environment and a format for effective communication. They don’t dictate a settlement, but instead help the individuals involved reach their own mutually agreeable solution. Mediation requires that the individuals in conflict be willing to express their concerns openly and honestly, and consider the concerns of the other party in the dispute. Collaboration between the parties is encouraged so that creative solutions that meet each party’s unique needs can be explored and lasting solutions found.

Why choose mediation over litigation?

Mediation is faster, cheaper, and often more effective than litigation.

Litigation can go on for years. Mediation is usually started and completed in a matter of weeks, for even the most complex cases. Most DRCs can work out a fee structure that fits your budget.

Mediation is all about “win-win.”

During mediation parties craft resolutions that work for them long term, rather than having a judgement imposed by a court. Litigation is “win/lose.” In litigation there’s always a winner and a loser, and someone else—a judge or jury—has control of the outcome. Mediation studies show that people follow through on mediated agreements at a higher rate they do on court-issued judgments.

Mediation leads to peaceful, long-term resolution

Parties who work through mediation have a much better chance of preserving on-going relationships. Mediation also allows parties the opportunity to work through difficult emotional issues—the kind of issues that often escalate during litigation.

 

Is mediation confidential?

Mediation is confidential, especially when compared to court processes which are public record. Confidentiality means that nothing said or disclosed in the mediation can be used against any party outside the mediation (with some legally required exceptions such as child abuse). Mediators are bound by confidentiality agreements and generally cannot be subpoenaed or required to testify about the substance of a mediation session. The confidential nature of the mediation process creates a safe place for participants to talk and make offers they might not otherwise be comfortable making.

Do I have to choose mediation?

Mediation is voluntary. The disputants have the right not to participate unless they have been ordered into mediation by a court.

What kinds of conflicts can be mediated?

Almost any conflict can be successfully mediated. Here’s a partial list of the different types of issues that can be mediated:

Family matters:

  • Divorce
  • Parenting plans and plan modifications
  • Primary residential parent status or “custody” issues
  • Issues associated with transitioning families
  • Asset and debt division
  • Elder issues

Community and individual matters:

  • Court cases including Small Claims
  • Landlord/tenant
  • Neighborhood
  • Land use
  • Merchant/consumer
  • Contractor/client
  • Bankruptcy
  • Real estate
  • Crime victim/offender cases

Organization issues:

  • Workplace issues
  • Board of director conflicts
  • Corporate conflicts
  • Restitution
  • Organizational conflicts
  • Union issues
How do I initiate a mediation?

Mediation is usually initiated by a referral from a court, law enforcement agency, attorney or other source, or from a self-referral. All it takes is a phone call to your local DRC to start the process. An intake worker will speak with you to learn about the dispute, who is involved, how long it has been going on, and other important details. The DRC then contacts the other people involved who are asked if they would be willing to participate in mediation to resolve the conflict. If the case is straightforward, the DRC may work with the disputants to see if the situation can be resolved over a phone call. If mediation is needed, and all parties agree to participate, mediators are assigned to the case and a meeting date set.

What happens during a mediation?

The mediation process may vary between DRCs. Typically each party has an opportunity to share their perspective and say what they desire as a resolution. Each party is also given the opportunity to respond to what they have heard. The mediators work to confirm and clarify understanding. Once both parties have shared their perspectives, the mediators and participants will create an agenda of the key issues to be discussed. This list serves as a guide for the remainder of the session. The mediators then help participants negotiate the issues directly with each other. Although mediators may offer “outside-the-box” solutions, they never impose a settlement of any kind. At the conclusion of the session, mediators help the parties write up their agreements.

Why does mediation work?

Mediation works because the parties involved feel that they have been heard. They leave the mediation knowing that their concerns and needs have been met and addressed through the settlement agreement reached. The agreement was created entirely by the parties involved and was not imposed by others so it’s much more likely to last.