The Mediation Process

The mediation process involves two (or more) clients working directly with a mediator to resolve a dispute. Sometimes mediations only take one meeting and sometimes they take a series of meetings to reach an agreement. Lawyers may be present at mediation, but that is up to the clients and the mediator.

Mediation is really just a facilitated conversation where the mediator uses his or her skills to help people communicate and negotiate more effectively. The mediation conversation usually goes in this order:

  • Provide background information to the mediator
  • Share your perspective on the dispute
  • Identify the issues to be resolved
  • Gather and exchange information
  • Identify interest (what's important to you)
  • Identify options (ways of meeting your interests)
  • Evaluate different options to see which works best
  • Negotiate and reach decisions

The mediator may assign "homework" in between mediation appointments. This usually involves gathering additional information (e.g., updated account values, property appraisals), but it may also be assessing options or "sleeping on" an agreement that was reached.

Once an agreement is reached the mediator will usually write it up for you. Some mediators will prepare a "Mediated Agreement" which is a private contract between the parties. Other mediators will prepare all of the paperwork that actually gets filed in court. Different states have different rules about what mediators can prepare for you.

Your mediation process might also look very different depending on your context. For example, if you have a case that is about to go to trial, sometimes a "settlement" mediation will be scheduled. Settlement mediations are usually scheduled all day and may involve the mediator making suggestions about how to settle your case. Often the clients will be in different rooms and the mediator will go back and forth between them. Lawyers are typically involved in these kinds of mediations. Note: Most people who are researching mediation are interested in the more traditional mediation process described above, not settlement mediation described in this paragraph.


Next: Benefits of Mediation