In mediation, people and organizations who are in conflict meet with a neutral third-party in order to resolve differences. The conflicts addressed by professional mediators are varied and can include divorce, child custody, landlord-tenant relationships, and business disputes. State agencies, not-for-profit organizations, private businesses, and individuals in solo practice offer mediation services. In some cases, decisions reached during mediation can be legally binding upon the participants.
Individuals who are trying to avoid expensive court battles often choose mediation. Divorcing couples may seek mediation to settle conflicts over property and child custody. Family court judges may require squabbling parents to meet with a mediator in order to resolve parenting issues. Mediation is also sought by landlords and tenants as an alternative to eviction.
Some mediation services focus on the needs of a particular profession or business. Medical mediators can work to address problems between doctors and managed care companies. Medical mediators offer services to doctors and managed care companies that are at odds as well as feuding members of group medical practices. If warring factions threaten to split a church, a church mediator can facilitate discussion between members, clergy, and denominational officials.
Other types of mediation include consumer, discrimination, elderly care, environmental, nonprofit, school and workplace.
Individuals participating in mediation do not always manage to get everything they desire from these negotiations. However, they may experience a more desirable result than if the matter were to go before a judge or remain unresolved. A tenant who is behind on rent may not be able to stay in his apartment, but by going through mediation, he or she can avoid having an eviction on his tenant screening record for seven years.
While mediation is not a licensed profession in the United States, many judges and government agencies will only recommend or utilize the services of a mediator who holds specific credentials. Required credentials vary depending on the type of mediation services offered, but may include the completion of a bachelor's degree, master's degree, graduation from an approved mediator training program, membership in a professional association for mediators, or a documented number of experience hours.
Many mediators also hold credentials in other fields: Someone who offers legal mediation services may have a law degree in addition to mediator training. Church mediators may be retired clergy, while a medical mediator may also be a registered nurse or a licensed physician. Those seeking mediation services for complex matters should consider asking about a mediator's specialized training in the issue at hand.