If you have never participated in mediation, you may wonder what’s involved. While every situation is different, here are a few things you can expect regardless of the type of case or mediator.
- To have the opportunity to tell your side of the story. Unlike court proceedings that comply with formal, legal rules, mediations give all parties a chance to articulate their account of the factual basis of their conflict and the opportunity to describe their concerns arising out of the conflict.
- To have factors that you think are important considered by the decision makers. In mediation, those most affected by a conflict (the parties) are the decision makers and can include all considerations in making decisions.
- To be prepared and be willing to provide the documentation and records necessary for informed decision-making. In a divorce, that might include financial records or property assessments. In a civil case, it could include medical records and bills. If you have an attorney, be sure to work with him or her before the mediation to exchange records necessary for decision-making.
- To be respectful. Since mediation is less formally structured than court proceedings, it is critical for the parties to be respectful. You may not respect the other person’s actions or ideas, but in order for the mediation to be most successful, demonstrating respect for the process is critical.
- To listen. The flip side of being able to tell your story and articulate your needs is that the other party or parties will also have that opportunity. Sometimes it is difficult to listen when our impulse are to argue. However, in mediation, you will often need to listen respectfully first, and then have an opportunity to articulate your concerns.
- To take your time. Mediation sessions can take a lot of time. In complicated or long standing conflicts, mediation makes take many hours spread over a period of weeks or even months. Even though mediation may take time, it usually offers a faster resolution than litigation.
- To keep your personal life confidential. Mediation, unlike court proceedings, is entirely confidential. With few exceptions, anything that is shared in mediation stays in mediation.
- To speak with the mediator privately. Many mediators conduct entire mediations with the parties separated, or “in caucus.” Others prefer to keep the parties in the same room. In most cases, if you need to speak with the mediator privately, most mediators will respect your request for a “caucus” and speak with you privately.
- To persuade the mediator that you are right. The mediator is not there to judge your case or decide who is right or wrong.
- The mediator to make a decision. The legal problem you are experiencing is your problem and you will need to live with the results. Mediation gives you the opportunity to create your own solution. Mediators who employ an “evaluative” style of mediation sometimes suggest how a court or jury may decide an issue. However, even with those types of mediations, the final decision will be your decision.
- To finish in an hour or two. Some mediations take an hour or two, others take days or several days spread out over a month. Many of the conflicts addressed in mediation took years to develop and will take more than a few hours to resolve.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Mediation is an adaptable process. A skilled, trained mediator will be able to work with you to create a process that best suits your needs. If you have any questions or concerns, our office can schedule a mediation orientation session before your first mediation to address those questions. Please contact our office to arrange for that session.