“Compromise is a foreign concept to most of us. We all just want to focus on what we want, or on what we stand to lose. It’s important to help clients focus on the bigger picture and to set goals and priorities.” — Frances Nolan
Mediation is a confidential process in which a neutral professional (the mediator) is hired to help the parties reach a mutually acceptable compromise. The mediator is not like a judge; s/he does not have the power to make decisions or to force a settlement, nor can s/he provide either party with any legal advice. The mediator’s sole purpose is to assist the parties in reaching agreement.
Mediation can be conducted with or without legal representation. Either or both parties can hire a lawyer to represent them before and/or during the mediation, or mediation can proceed without assistance of lawyers for either party. In any case, the process unfolds of conversations between the parties and the mediator. Some may involve the parties being together in the same room with the mediator, others may involve private conversations between mediator and each party and his/her lawyer, if applicable.
Some mediators prefer to schedule a series of meetings of limited duration, each to address one or two issues until all matters are resolved. Others prefer to address all issues at once and to work as long as it takes to resolve everything in one day. When considering mediation, you should also consider which approach is better for you and supports your style of decision-making. You should carefully consider whether proceeding with or without legal counsel is best for you and your circumstances. Moreover, you have the right to interview mediators to ensure that you feel comfortable with and can work effectively with whomever is ultimately chosen.
Mediation can take place before legal action is formally undertaken, or can proceed at any time prior to the trial of a case. In some cases, mediation may be scheduled after trial has commenced, but before its conclusion and entry of an order by the judge.
Although no agreement can be reached in mediation without the consent of both parties, either party can request mediation. In some counties, the court may require that the parties submit to mediation prior to scheduling a date for trial of the matter. For many, mediation can expedite resolution and enhance the parties’ ability to address issues of most concern.