What Is Mediation?

A Voluntary, Informal, and Confidential Way to Resolve Disputes

In mediation, the parties themselves retain the power to make decisions, rather than give decision-making power to someone else, such as a judge or arbitrator. It involves sitting down with the other side in a dispute in a face-to-face meeting, together with a specially trained, neutral third-party – the mediator.

The mediator helps you identify the important issues and decide how to resolve them. The mediator does not take sides, make decisions for you, tell you what you should do, or make a judgment about who’s right and who’s wrong.

The mediator will help you communicate your concerns and identify, clarify, and create options and solutions that will meet everyone’s interests and needs.

This focus on interests and needs, rather than on winning and losing, is critical. It helps reduce hostility, separates emotions from facts, fosters constructive discussion of creative alternatives, and promotes ownership of the ultimate solution. Success is based on your good-faith cooperation and participation in the mediation.

Mediation Has Many Advantages Over Traditional Forms of Dispute Resolution

It is confidential. Court records are open to the public, but mediation is private and confidential. A mediator does not reveal anything that is said or done during the mediation process to anyone who is not present at the mediation. There are some exceptions to confidentiality, such as suspicion of child abuse and threats of harm to self or others. Nothing presented in mediation can be used in any legal proceeding on the matters discussed during the process. You may discuss what happens with your attorneys, advisors, or others. However, if you don’t settle in mediation and you decide to go to court, the mediator will not willingly testify about the mediation.

It is voluntary. As parties to a mediation, you voluntarily agree to meet and collaboratively address, manage, and resolve your disputes. Either party or the mediator can decide that the mediation is not productive, and end it.

It is cooperative. You are encouraged to work together to solve your problems and to reach what you perceive to be your best agreement.

It is informal. In this informal forum, each of you has the opportunity to identify and communicate what is important to you, without having to follow difficult, complex rules of evidence. You work as partners, not adversaries, to create realistic solutions satisfactory to everyone.

It is cost-effective. Mediation is almost always far less expensive than litigation. Successful mediation will often significantly reduce attorney fees and court costs. It also may reduce the cost of appraisals, accounting services, expert witnesses, and other expenses that are normally part of adversarial court proceedings.

It offers convenience and speed. Mediation can generally be scheduled within a couple of weeks, and will be scheduled at a time that is convenient for all parties. Timing can be critical during the escalation of conflict, to prevent delays in finding mutually agreeable resolutions.

It offers control and self-determination. You retain control over the outcome of the mediation and over the decisions that affect your lives. You resolve your disputes by formulating your own solutions to meet your needs. Parties tend to be more satisfied with terms they agreed to in mediation than with terms imposed on them by a court.

It has a high rate of compliance. When you have reached your own agreement, you are generally more likely to follow through and comply with its terms, unlike an agreement that has been imposed on you by an outside third-party decision-maker. Mediation involves a mutually satisfactory agreement in which each of you has at least some of your interests met, to the degree that you are willing to support the overall agreement.

It restores and preserves relationships. Mediation helps preserve ongoing relationships, such as those between spouses, parents and teens, landlords and tenants, business partners, contracting parties, employers and employees, etc. By encouraging direct communication, mediation can initiate the healing process and give you a place to start for future interactions.

Visit www.mediate.com for more articles and other information.

Collaborative divorce attorney, negotiated divorce settlements, family and business dispute mediation, uncontested divorce, and parenting coordination services for clients across Northern Virginia, including Fairfax, Arlington, Loudoun, and Prince William counties, and communities of Alexandria, Arlington, Centerville, Chantilly, Dulles, Falls Church, Great Falls, Herndon, Lorton, Manassas, McLean, Mount Vernon, Reston, Springfield, Tysons Corner, and Vienna; office located in the City of Falls Church, inside the Beltway (495) and I-66.
© Lynn Fletcher, Attorney at Law, PC • 703-244-7717 • lynn@lynnfletchermediation.com • Developed by WSI Webmark