The most commonly utilized form of alternative dispute resolution is mediation. Mediation is a process where a neutral third party, called a mediator, helps parties reach an agreement, settling part or all of their differences. Mediation is often used in civil suits including divorce and other family law matters. In some jurisdictions, mediation is mandatory, while in others it is wholly voluntary but highly encouraged. Mediation is very successful in that over 75% of all matters that go to mediation are successfully resolved there.
The mediation process is confidential and informal in nature. There are no court officials present and the process is non-binding, unless an agreement is reached. If a settlement is reached on all or part of the issues, the mediator may assist the parties by drafting the mediated settlement agreement. This agreement is binding unless the parties agree otherwise.
The actual conduct of the mediation may be different depending upon the style of the individual mediator and the nature of the case. Mediator styles can vary greatly from person to person from assertive to very aloof and several degrees between. It is important to consult your attorney and find a mediator that you think you can work well with.
Typically mediation begins in a joint session, meaning both parties are present in the room. The mediator introduces him or herself and explains the mediation process. Each party then has an opportunity to give an opening statement, an overview of the issues in the case from their perspective and what they hope to accomplish in mediation. After opening statements, the negotiations begin. The mediator may move back and forth between joint and private meetings, called caucuses. During this process, the mediator assists the parties in clarifying interests, discussing areas of agreement and disagreement, and examining possible solutions.