Consensual Dispute Resolution Models

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process in which participants make decisions together based on their understanding of their own views, each other’s views, and the reality they face. The mediator works as a non-coercive neutral to help the participant negotiate an agreement that serves them better than their alternatives.

Definitions of mediator and mediation by Gary Friedman,, used with permission.

Mediators do not give legal advice and are not a substitute for having your own lawyer.

What does the process look like? Mediation proceeds by agreement. This means that the first step is to make sure that you and your spouse or partner understand what mediation is and that the mediator understands what kind of process you want. You and your spouse or partner and the mediator together explore how you will work together. This usually involves setting ground rules for such things as the conduct of meetings; the use of lawyers; the disclosure of information; and confidentiality. The mediator is a neutral participant who doesn’t recommend a solution but will actively help in brainstorming and evaluating options, sometimes giving legal information if the parties think it would be useful.

Why you might choose Mediation.

Mediation is confidential, allows you and your spouse or partner to make the decisions, and is often less expensive than formal judicial proceedings. Also, mediation gives you the opportunity to be creative. While a judge has no choice but to apply the law to a given set of facts, in mediation you and your spouse or partner are free to make decisions based on your interests and needs, your own sense of fairness, and whatever other reference points you decide are relevant. This enables you to develop novel approaches to solving problems, whether it be distributing assets, determining support, or dealing with custody issues.

Why you might not choose Mediation.

Mediation might not be a good choice for you if you feel intimidated by your spouse or partner; if you have a tendency to shut down during discussions or find it difficult to talk about your needs and what you want for yourself; if you don’t trust your spouse or partner to be forthcoming with information under his or her control; or if there is otherwise a substantial knowledge or power imbalance in the relationship.

My role as a Mediator.

My role as a mediator would be to try to understand both of you and to help you understand each other. I monitor and focus the process. I help you and your spouse or partner communicate and work out the details of an agreement. I can also prepare the formal written agreement and the paperwork that has to be submitted in order to obtain the decree of dissolution. During mediation both of you should also be consulting with independent lawyers in order to make sure your legal rights are protected.