What is Mediation?

Mediation began in the US in the late 1980s as an alternative form of dispute resolution. There are a number of mediation styles ranging from evaluative, to facilitative, to transformative. Evaluative mediation refers to a setting where parties are usually in separate locations, and the mediator provides input that s/he believes might be the most likely court outcome. Facilitative mediation is usually conducted with all parties at one table. Here the parties strive to make their own decisions and the mediator intervenes to support a smooth flow during negotiations, but refrains from offering an opinion on the outcome. Transformative mediation allows the parties to design the format of their interaction and to decide how to deal with the topics on the table. This approach to mediation strives to generate empowerment and recognition for the parties at the table.

How does mediation work?

All parties must agree to mediate, and this is covered during a pre-mediation discussion. Depending on the nature of the dispute, mediation may take place in single or multiple sessions. During mediation sessions, parties are invited to share their view of the issues, and an agenda is created. Next, issues are discussed and negotiated. The goal is to understand and respect parties' issues and strive for a mutually agreeable resolution that is written and signed by the parties. The parties' signatures may be contingent on a possible review by respective attorneys.

I am willing to mediate, but I am unsure about the other party.

It can be the mediator's role to contact parties involved to ascertain if all parties agree to mediation. Alternatively you may start by providing all parties with a list of potential mediators, and each party indicates their mediator preference.

Do mediations end with agreements?

Mediations end when parties agree to terminate the mediation session. An agreement requires the parties signatures. Statistics indicate that about 70% of mediations conclude with written agreements, but this number is a generalization that may be a function of the type of dispute. Even if an agreement is not reached, mediations always conclude with a clarification of issues for all parties involved, and an overall understanding of the areas of disagreement. While parties may disagree on the issues, mediation allows the parties to agree on the methods they will use to decide the outcome of their dispute.