Mediation is a simple, inexpensive form of alternate dispute resolution opposed to more formal options available, eg litigation or arbitration.
Mediation is a dispute resolving process available to disputants possessing a genuine desire to mediate, expecting to achieve mutually satisfying dispute solutions by participating in a settlement process guided by trained mediators.
Mediation is not therapy. Although a person with counselling credentials, such as a social worker or psychologist, may also work as a mediator, mediation does not substitute for therapy.
The object of mediation is to assist disputing parties focus on a mutual problem, talk about it, discuss possible solutions, and, if they choose, agree upon a solution.
Therapy may assist disputants gain emotional distance and make them better able to handle conflict, but that's a different process.
Disputants, if they wish, may seek independent therapy before, during, or after mediation.
Mediation is not the practice of law. Many mediators are also solicitors or barristers. However, whenever a legal practitioner acts as a mediator, he/she cannot provide individual legal advice or representation to one of the parties to the mediation. A legal practitioner represents you; a mediator is a neutral third party.
Mediation is not only for court cases. Although various Courts refer parties involved in litigation to mediation (especially family law matters), you may also engage a mediator as an alternative to going to court in the first place.
Mediation is confidential. Mediation is a private matter. Everything that is said in mediation is confidential. Litigating is a formal system in which most of what is filed or said in Court is part of the public record. A mediator is bound not to reveal what the parties have said in mediation, except in a few limited situations:
- When there is an existing law that requires the mediator to report certain information, such as child abuse
- Where the mediator believes it is necessary to reveal information so as to prevent serious bodily injury or death
- Where the mediator's conduct is questionable
Mediators generally have no hard and fast procedural rules at their meetings; individual mediators rely on their personal experience, skill and training to conduct and guide parties towards settlement.