Six Stages of Mediation and How They Promote Problem-Solving

Mediation is a way for people with disputes to seek resolution with the help of a neutral third party, known as a mediator, without the need to go to court. It provides a forum for exchanging information informally in a way that lessens tensions, promotes mutual understanding and fashions workable solutions. Mediation is generally faster and less expensive than litigation. It results not in a ruling but in a settlement agreement that reflects each party’s desires.

Although mediation is not a courtroom proceeding, it does follow a well-defined process with the overall goal of bringing the parties to agreement. Although this may vary depending on the nature of the dispute, there are generally six stages of mediation:

  • Convening  The mediator gets the parties to agree to mediation by pointing out its advantages. The mediator explains the nature of the process, the rules concerning confidentiality and the mediator’s neutrality and the need for cooperation to achieve an effective outcome.
  • Opening statements  The parties describe the dispute and how it affects them. Mediators usually want to hear initial ideas on potential resolutions. The mediator does not permit interruptions by the other party while one party is speaking.
  • Joint discussion — The mediator invites each party to respond to the other’s opening statement, steering the discussion away from direct confrontations. The discussion continues until the points of disagreement are sufficiently clarified.
  • Private meetings — Each party meets with the mediator in a separate room. The mediator goes back and forth, relating to each party the other’s position and communicating any offers or concessions the other party makes. The mediator uses each party’s input to find ways to refine their positions so as to reduce points of disagreement and to invite possible resolutions.
  • Joint negotiation — The mediator returns the parties to the same room for discussion of unsettled issues. Usually, this joint meeting does not occur until the parties have come close to an agreed-upon settlement or until an allotted time period has expired.
  • Closure  If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator drafts and directs the parties to sign a summary of the points to which they have agreed. If the parties do not reach an agreement, the mediator presents options for them, such as a later meeting after a time of reflection, either in person or by phone.

The ideal end product of a mediation is a memorandum of understanding that includes all aspects of the agreements reached. If there is a pending court proceeding, the memorandum can be adopted by the court as part of the settlement and dismissal of the case. This makes the agreement enforceable by either party going forward.

Quinn & Kronlund LLP in Stockton, California provides effective mediation for a wide range of legal disputes. Feel free to contact us online or call 209-943-3950 to learn more about our services.