The goal of mediation is to amicably resolve a dispute through the efforts of the parties. The role of the mediator is to utilize patience, persuasion and people skills to facilitate the dialogue between the parties in order to reach settlement. The mediator does not have the authority to render a decision, the parties are not compelled to reach an agreement. Any party is free to leave the mediation at any time.
Each mediator has his or her style and most effective mediators alter their approach to fit the unique needs and personalities of a given dispute. Facilitative mediators rely on people skills and persuasion to guide the parties toward a realm of agreement. Evaluative mediators rely more on experience and subject matter expertise to predict possible outcomes. Each style can be used effectively and many mediators utilize a combination of both styles as the needs of the conflict dictate.
The mediation process itself involves a series of joint sessions and private caucuses. The mediator will make the determination of when each type of meeting will be conducted. Typically the mediation will start with a joint session that includes all of the participants to the dispute and then the groups will be divided for private caucuses. The mediator will shuttle back and forth between the parties until either impasse or a settlement is reached. Impasse is declared when one or more parties or the neutral determines that continued negotiations would be fruitless at this time. If a settlement is reached its terms should be written down and signed by the parties making it enforceable as if it were a contract.
Mediation is a very flexible process that can be effectively used at any time during the course of the dispute. Because the process is non-adversarial, there are numerous benefits over trial in addition to saving time and money. Mediation allows the parties to maintain relationships and offers the greatest opportunity for creative problem solving. Mediation sessions commonly last from a few hours to one day.
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