What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party (the mediator) assists two or more participants in resolving a dispute. The mediator works with the parties to help them reach an agreement but the mediator has no decision-making authority and cannot tell you what to do.

The following are key aspects of mediation:

Mediation is Confidential. Mediation is a confidential process. This means that, generally speaking, parties cannot talk about anything that went on in mediation outside of mediation. The purpose of mediation confidentiality is so that parties can speak freely and be creative without being concerned that it will be held against them later. The main exception to this is that you are allowed to discuss the mediation with your attorney. Each state also has certain exceptions to mediation confidentiality, which are typically related to the safety of the participants or children of the parties.

Mediators are Neutral. Mediation is premised on neutrality. You cannot have an effective mediation if the mediator is biased in favor of one party or the other. Your mediator must inform the participants if there is any reason why the mediator's neutrality may be compromised. Further, the mediator should be impartial as to result, which means that the agreement is up to the parties to decide, not the mediator.

Mediation is Voluntary. Mediation is a voluntary process. Anyone can leave mediation at any time for any reason. If a court case has been filed, people may be required to participate in "mandatory" mediation under certain circumstances. Generally speaking, though, mediation participants are there voluntarily.

Mediation is Private. Mediation is a private process which typically occurs at a mediator's office rather than at a courthouse. Mediation settlements are typically written up and filed with the court, but not always.

Participants are Fully Informed. In mediation, all relevant information has to be made available to all participants. If certain information is unknown, the mediator will work with the participants to figure out how to obtain the information.

Next: The Mediation Process