Getting through a dispute with mediation

If you are in the middle of a dispute or know one is about to erupt, one option is to consider mediation to resolve the issue. For the most part, people are willing to participate in mediation to avoid having to go to court.

Mediation is a good first option because it allows both parties to state their grievances and to work toward a reasonable solution. However, mediation cannot be successful if neither party is willing to negotiate or be rational. Both parties have to be willing to talk to one another and work toward a common goal of resolving the dispute.

Another benefit of mediation is that the mediator has no vested interest in the outcome other than to make sure both parties are satisfied. In fact, rules dictate what a mediator is and isn't permitted to do.

What are the rules for a mediator?

Mediators must only work with parties who are voluntarily participating in the mediation. He or she must acknowledge and allow either party to withdraw from mediation before it's over so long as the party does so before a written settlement agreement is brokered.

Mediators control the procedure and the steps in a mediation session, but he or she must remain impartial and neutral. The mediator is disqualified from becoming a witness, expert or consultant if there is an investigation or litigation between the parties in mediation.

What should you keep in mind about mediation?

It's important to remember that mediation is not binding. That means that you could spend the time in mediation to obtain a settlement agreement and have the other party turn around and reject it. This is one risk of mediation, but it doesn't always occur.

Since mediation is voluntary, people are more likely to truly want to find a resolution to a problem instead of going to court. Rejecting a mediation settlement would defeat the purpose of mediation and completely waste the time and money spent there.

Finally, remember that mediation is not for everyone. If the other party comes to the sessions begrudgingly, it could be a sign that he or she is unhappy with attempting to resolve the situation in this manner. In that case, you may be better off going through arbitration or seeking out an official ruling from the court. It's up to you and the other party to decide on the best way to resolve your dispute.