A mediator is an impartial person trained to help parties in a dispute reach their own resolution. Mediation is often used by courts, but individuals and private businesses also use it. A successful mediation can mean a speedier, less expensive and less stressful process than court litigation. Mediators are usually attorneys, former judges or other experienced professionals who have undergone specialized training in mediation and can provide guidance in the legal issues involved in a dispute.
The first step of mediation is selecting a mediator. The mediator will typically have experience with the type of case in question and be located near the parties. After the mediator is selected, a date is set for the mediation session. Depending on the type of case, it may be held in an individual lawyer’s office, a courtroom or another neutral location. Both parties typically attend the mediation sessions along with their respective lawyers. During the mediation, all statements made are confidential.
At the beginning of each session, the mediator provides an overview of the process. This includes an explanation of the mediation rules and what role he or she will play in the proceedings. The mediator may then allow each party to make opening remarks to describe their position in the dispute. Depending on the case, the mediator may also ask each party to share any issues they need to work through in order to resolve their differences.
After the opening statements, the mediator will meet with each party separately. These separate meetings are called caucuses and are where the bulk of the mediation negotiations take place. The mediator will listen to each side of the story and try to understand where there is common ground. The mediator will then discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s positions and attempt to facilitate an exchange of offers between both parties. Often, the mediator will bring the parties back together to continue this exchange as needed until either a settlement is reached or the time allotted for mediation has expired.
Throughout the mediation, the mediator will use follow-up questions, outside sources and professional knowledge to prioritize and evaluate the issues at hand. This is to ensure the best outcome for the parties and their families. In the end, a successful mediation will result in a settlement that is fair and equitable to all parties. The mediator will then summarize the agreement and prepare a written document stating the terms of the settlement. Ideally, the document will be signed by all parties in attendance at the mediation. It is important that both parties come prepared to mediation and arrive on time to avoid unnecessary delays. Arriving on time can include allowing for sufficient travel and parking time as well as the need to pay fees prior to the mediation session. Getting to mediation on time can also help both parties focus on what needs to be discussed and how to overcome obstacles to communication.