What Is Mediation

Hand writing Mediation with blue marker on transparent wipe board.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process used to help people reach agreements. In this process, a neutral, trained mediator works with people to discuss all of the issues related to their family conflict, to explore possible options for settlement, and to identify solutions that best meet the needs of each person involved.

When can Mediation be done?

Mediation can take place at any stage in a situation, and we believe that the earlier it is considered, the better. For example, when people make a decision to divorce, they are at a critical point.  Before any money is spent, or any commitment is made by either person to work with a particular attorney, the benefits of mediation should be considered. If mediation sounds like a good fit, both people can then seek out attorneys who are supportive of mediation to consult with them and advise them as to their specific situation. We believe that this approach can lead to peaceful, personal, and private solutions that most often save time, money, and stress.

If mediation is not considered until later in the process, there may have been significant time and money spent without reaching agreements, and emotions can run very high. Chances for reaching a peaceful agreement may have diminished, and the likelihood of having to resolve the case either through an expensive trial in court or late stage mediation is higher.

Who participates in Mediation?

Mediation can include different combinations of participants at different times. At the minimum, the neutral mediator meets with the two parties to the case, but the attorneys for the parties may also be present. Other professionals who can provide information to help with decisionmaking may also be present.

Whether the attorneys are present or not depends on several factors including the subject matter being addressed, the comfort level of the attorneys with the process, and the comfort level of the participants with the process. At the beginning of the mediation process, it may be a good idea for the mediator to speak briefly with the attorneys, and then if all are comfortable, have the mediator meet with the parties only at first. Sometimes, the attorneys are most comfortable if the mediation starts with the mediator and the parties only, and focuses on parenting issues and developing a specific parenting time schedule. Later, the attorneys may or may want to participate in mediation when financial issues are discussed. Whether they are present at mediation or not, attorneys typically each meet with their own clients outside of mediation  and provide advice as to the options the client may want to consider for settlement, and the range of possible legal outcomes if the case does not settle at mediation. Many attorneys will also be available for consultation by phone during the mediation if needed even if they are not present. Finally, attorneys should review any written agreements prior to finalization to assure that the language used captures the terms as agreed.

Other professionals who participate may include child development professionals, to provide information to the parties, or financial professionals, such as pension or real estate experts.