What is mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary, collaborative and confidential process whereby a neutral person (mediator) helps persons or parties discuss and resolve disputes or create agreements or plans through facilitated discussions. A mediator helps the parties reach a mutual agreement by identifying the issues and interests of each party, exploring all possible solutions, and identifying the consequences of not settling the dispute. The mediator does not act as a judge, lawyer or advocate, and has no decision-making authority. Instead, the mediator is an impartial facilitator who helps the parties understand each other’s interests and perspectives, generate and discuss options to resolve the issues, and drafts mutually acceptable agreements.
When is mediation appropriate?
Mediation is appropriate when parties’ emotions or positional bargaining have restricted their ability to negotiate with each other, but they do not want to relinquish the decision-making authority to a judge or an arbitrator. It is appropriate when the parties want to preserve their relationship or terminate a relationship in the least adversarial and confrontational way. It is appropriate when parties need to transition from one relationship to another. For example: Transitioning from a married relationship to co-parenting; and from co-workers to a supervisor-employee relationship. Mediation may be inappropriate if a party is unable to negotiate due to substance abuse, psychological impairment, or physical or emotional abuse by the other party.
What are the benefits of mediation?
- Allows the parties to retain control and decision making over their resolution.
- Promotes cooperation, communication and reduces conflict.
- Avoids the emotional and monetary expenses and lengthy delays of litigation.
- Allows the parties to be creative in forming and discussing options for resolution.
- Provides the opportunity for non-monetary benefits often unavailable in litigation.
- Promotes reasonable dialogue and respect for future discussions and negotiations.
- Efficiently saves significant time, money and emotional stress!
Are we all in one room or in separate rooms?
Mediations can take place in one room, in separate rooms, or in a combination; and there are many reasons why the parties, their attorneys or the mediator may choose one room or separate rooms. Most mediations begin and remain in one room, which provides and promotes transparency, communication and saves time. Mediations in separate rooms take more time, but may be preferred if one or both parties are having a difficult time with emotions, anger or are feeling vulnerable. If we begin in one room, either party, their attorney, or the mediator can request to meet separately at any time. Please trust the mediator to ensure fairness, safety, collaboration, and to address any real or perceived power imbalances.
What should I expect to happen at the mediation?
- Process – We will start with a brief introduction of the mediation process, confidentiality, the roles of the mediator, parties and attorneys, and sign the Agreement to Mediate which is enclosed herein. Next we list all issues to be discussed, and decide which issue to discuss first. Then we will discuss each issue using the collaborative problem-solving model described above until we have resolved all issues or run out of time. If additional information or time is needed, we will make a “to do list” and reserve that issue(s) for a second session.
- Time – We may resolve every issue in one 1 to 3-hour mediation, or we may need two or three mediations. Each case is different, and depends on the following factors: the number of issues, one room vs. separate rooms, how prepared the parties are, the level of communication, the level of conflict and whether additional information is needed to make informed decisions. Remember, the goal of the mediation is for the parties to work together to create agreements that meet both of your interests. This takes time and patience to listen and consider each other’s perspectives, brainstorm options, gather information, negotiate, and create an agreement – for each issue.
- Result – Working together to create your own decisions and agreements that meet your interests helps you both move forward towards better future communication, co-parenting (if applicable), and encourages you both to comply with your agreements. In addition, we will include provisions for future communication, conflicts and changes in circumstances.
How can I be the most prepared and have the most efficient use of my time?
Parties should plan to come to the mediation prepared to: (a) listen; (b) share all relevant information and documentation; (c) participate in a focused, respectful and productive discussion; and (d) seek resolutions that meet both/all parties’ interests. Parties should bring a list of all issues to discuss, all relevant documentation, and at least two proposals to resolve the issues. Bellingham Mediation & Consulting can assist with a thorough list of issues to be addressed in divorce, parenting plans, and child-related financial issues.
Do I need to have an attorney present?
Many clients attend mediation both with and without their attorneys. Clients attend mediation at many stages – before attorneys are involved, before any documents are filed with the court, after a lawsuit has begun, and up to days before a hearing or trial is scheduled. Clients are strongly encouraged to consult with an attorney either before the mediation, or have an attorney review any agreement before it is signed. If the mediator hears a possible legal issue, clients will be encouraged to obtain legal advice on that issue.
Does Mediation Work?
Absolutely! Mediation statistics vary according to state and type of cases. On average in the United States about 85% of the cases in mediation successfully settle. Mediation is a low cost, high benefit investment for all parties. Approximately 95% of all cases brought to Bellingham Mediation & Consulting achieve full resolution, and 98% achieve a partial resolution.