Mediation is a process where the disputing parties appoint a mediator trained in the area of dispute resolution and knowledgeable in the subject matter of the dispute. Like arbitration, mediation involves choosing a third party to help resolve the dispute, but, unlike an arbitrator, a mediator does not impose a decision. The mediator facilitates the discussion to help the disputing parties arrive at a mutually agreed-upon settlement. Mediation is often chosen when the ongoing relationship between the parties is important. Lawyers can be present or consulted at any time.
Mediation may be chosen as an alternative or precursor to litigation for several reasons:
- Quick – A neutral third party often helps disputing parties to realize that their positions are not far apart, reducing the time it takes to come to an agreement.
- Affordable – Each party shares in the cost of the mediation.
- Confidential – Decisions reached by the parties remain private, unless otherwise agreed.
- Educative – Mediation teaches the disputing parties how to negotiate effectively, and may help individuals resolve future issues themselves.
- Flexible – Parties can renegotiate their agreement at any time.