A dispute resolution center is place to for parties in conflict to engage in mediation in an attempt to satisfactorily resolve their disputes and avoid litigation. Beyond the mediation process itself, a dispute resolution center provides educational seminars for people who want to learn about alternative dispute resolution. They also provide training and continuing education courses for mediation professionals. Centers also train organizations on how to avoid and manage internal conflicts.
The mediation that takes place is confidential, and it is voluntary except in cases where mediation is court ordered or required by statute. A trained mediator conducts the mediation, and she first gives an overview of the mediation process to the parties. The first ground rule is that the parties treat one another respectfully. There is then a joint session in which the parties can first freely express what they are feeling about the conflict without interruption from anyone, and then the mediator will try to guide the parties with questions and comments toward a mutually satisfactory resolution. If the dispute is resolved, the parties then draft a joint agreement.
Often dispute resolution centers are nonprofit organizations and offer mediation services in a variety of conflict situations. These include personal conflicts like parent and child relationships, spousal and unmarried partner conflicts and co-parenting issues. Mediation services are also available for disputes between neighbors, property owners and tenants, businesses and consumers, employers and employees. Centers for dispute resolution also assist government agencies, municipalities, and community groups with internal conflicts and disputes with citizens. Guardianship mediation and special programs for the victims of crime are also available.
Training new mediators and offering continuing education courses to mediators is another function of a dispute resolution center. They also train social service organizations on how to avoid conflict when dealing with difficult and angry clients, and how better to better understand cross-cultural differences in perception. The training services and seminars are also available to school administrators and officials. Some centers also publish their own books on mediation and basic conflict resolution techniques.
In most cases, a dispute resolution center also has advocacy and outreach programs and provide a calendar of events and trainings to the public. It is not necessary to have all the parties’ agreement about mediation to contact a center. Most centers for dispute resolution will call the other parties to the dispute and explain what happens in the mediation process and talk about the benefits of alternative dispute resolution.