What is a Mediator?

Carol Francois

A mediator is a professional conflict resolver. Mediators provide an alternative to litigation as a method of resolving a wide range of disagreements. The use of mediators has increased dramatically in the past decade, as more people seek to avoid long, expensive legal options. Mediators can be used to resolve a wide range of issues and disputes, covering everything except criminal cases.

Mediators may be able to help couples facing divorce.
Mediators may be able to help couples facing divorce.

There are two main areas of focus for a professional mediator: business or civil disputes and divorce court disputes. Although the details differ, the overall process is the same. Courts are increasingly directing simple civil and divorce cases to mediation as a first step before litigation. This process saves times, effort, and valuable resources.

Mediators help arguing individuals or corporations come to an agreement.
Mediators help arguing individuals or corporations come to an agreement.

A mediator is contacted when both sides agree that they want to avoid court, but need an independent third party to resolve the issue. Both parties sign a binding agreement to follow the decision made by the mediator. Each side provides the mediator with a written summary of the core issues and the resolution process to date. The mediator schedules a meeting in a neutral location and determines who should attend. A series of meetings is held to find common ground, discuss the desired end result for both sides, and negotiate an agreement.

Divorce mediators may help with custody issues.
Divorce mediators may help with custody issues.

In a business dispute, the mediator may start with a statement of accepted facts. He or she can then work down the issues and attempt to find a middle ground that is acceptable to each side. The process usually takes several weeks, but is much faster than a full court trial. At the end of the process, a legally binding agreement or contract is signed. The mediation process is not suitable in cases of wrongful death or where there may be criminal charges, but is very useful for the vast majority of other types of disputes.

Peer mediation may be used to strengthen relationships in young adults.
Peer mediation may be used to strengthen relationships in young adults.

In a divorce or family court case, the mediator follows a similar process. The only major difference is that rules of conduct are usually provided to each client and signed in advance. These rules outline acceptable behavior, how to address the other party, and how to ask for a recess in the proceedings. Many divorce and family lawyers actively encourage their clients to try mediation first. The lawyers participate in the process and work together with the client to reach an equitable and acceptable solution.

Mediators may be needed to resolve school yard issues.
Mediators may be needed to resolve school yard issues.

There is no formal criterion to become a professional mediator. A large number of successful mediators are trained lawyers, who have taken additional courses in mediation and dispute resolution. Mediator selection can be referral-based or a service offered by the law office. In certain states, mediators can be certified for a specific type of court based on a combination of experience and education.

A mediator is a neutral third party often used to help settle business or civil disputes without resorting to litigation.
A mediator is a neutral third party often used to help settle business or civil disputes without resorting to litigation.

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Discussion Comments

anon171537

i have a lawsuit going on. I've already done a deposition and now they're sending me to talk to a mediator. it's already been three years.

anon143489

exactly what i wanted to know.

anon52039

This is a very informative article.

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