How does mediation work, exactly?
Mediation is the process of bringing in a neutral third-party to help both sides in a case reach a compromise. There are many reasons that mediation may be preferable to litigation (for an article that explains this in detail, click here). This article will give you a sense of different ways that the mediation process can work and what to expect. Generally speaking there are two ways to approach mediation.
Multiple meetings over time
In this mediation style, the parties may have several meetings with the mediator over a period of weeks or months. Each session may focus on reaching specific goals, like identifying issues that are important for each party; gathering information; and proposing and discussing solutions. Often parties may meet with the mediator without attorneys being present. Typically the mediator will be an attorney. However in some circumstances, for example when dealing with custody and visitation issues, the mediator may be a trained counselor, social worker or psychologist. If the mediator is an attorney, then he or she may assist the parties by drafting a final agreement resolving the issues in the case.
Doing it all in a day
In some cases, the parties will set aside a full day to address the issues in their case, with the goal of resolving most or all of the issues by the end of the session. In many cases, each party will have retained and worked with an attorney prior to the mediation session. This way, the necessary information can be gathered and issues identified prior to the mediation session.
In many cases, the parties will use a retired judge as the mediator / neutral third-party. There can be several benefits to this. For one, the retired judge can give the parties a unique insight into what they will be facing if they are unable to reach an agreement and must litigate the case.
If the appropriate groundwork is set for a mediation session (preparation, defining the issues, etc.) some mediation services boast a success rate at or above 90%.