Mediation is a voluntary process by which an impartial third party helps parties in a dispute reach a mutually satisfactory settlement. It’s a process that can be used to resolve disputes in many different contexts, including family and employment law, corporate and commercial issues, real estate transactions, construction contracts, and personal injury cases. In fact, mediation can be beneficial even in disputes that are not formally in litigation or that have never been filed with a court, such as an informal dispute between neighbors or employees within a company.
The role of the mediator is to provide a safe environment for the parties to discuss their issues, understand each other’s perspective and look at ways to find a resolution that meets their needs and interests. Mediation is a confidential, non-binding and voluntary process. If a mediator feels that the mediation is being undermined in any way, or that the safety of any participants is at risk, they can bring the mediation to a close.
Before mediation begins, the mediator will usually do a significant amount of preparation work to ensure that they understand the dispute and the issues raised by it. This may involve meeting with the parties and their lawyers or contacting them by telephone. They will indicate what documentation they expect to be provided by the parties, and if necessary, set a timetable for its supply. They will also establish with the parties the rules of confidentiality which are to apply to the process.
When the day of the mediation arrives, the mediator will usually meet with each party individually, through their lawyer, to introduce themselves and set out their opening statement (if this is scheduled). They will then arrange for all the parties to meet in one room for a joint session.
It is common for the mediator to invite each party to make a brief opening statement, outlining how they view the dispute and what their desired outcome is. Opening statements are often relatively informal, and should not be like making submissions in court.
Once everyone is in the same room, the mediator will explain the process, and the ground rules for conduct of the mediation. It’s important that the parties agree on these ground rules, so that they are clear what the process will be and what is expected of them.
As the mediation proceeds, the mediator will help the parties to identify their strengths and challenges, point out the risks of continuing with the dispute and having a trial, and the cost and uncertainty of doing so. The mediator will also point out the opportunities to reach a settlement that benefits all sides. independent mediators