Mediation services are provided by trained professionals who help parties work toward a mutually acceptable resolution to their dispute. The mediator acts as a neutral facilitator, helping parties “think outside the box” for possibilities in resolving their case. Mediation can be used to settle a wide range of disputes. For example, it is often used in litigation over divorce and custody issues, but it can also be used to resolve workplace conflicts and other types of civil disputes.
Typically, mediation involves a number of sessions with the mediator. Each session usually lasts a few hours or less. The mediator meets with each party in separate rooms, and the discussions in each room are confidential. A written agreement may be reached at the end of a mediation session, but even if an agreement is not reached, the mediator will still normally draft a memorandum of understanding, which shows that the parties participated in the mediation and gives them some legal standing.
In addition to individual mediators, there are also mediation organizations that provide dispute resolution services. Mediation organizations often have staff that are more experienced at promoting the value of mediation and in getting reluctant participants to sit for mediation.
Typically, any party to a lawsuit can participate in mediation. In some cases, a court may require mediation before a case will be heard in court. Other people might choose to participate in mediation voluntarily, such as business partners or neighbors who have a disagreement.