What Happens in Mediation? How the Process Works

What Happens in Mediation

What happens in mediation? Mediation has become a vital part of the conflict resolution system, yet many people have not experienced mediation, nor do they understand the process. This can cause people to decide not to participate or have many reservations about it. It can also feel overwhelming because the people involved may not know what to expect. However, mediation can be an essential way to resolve a dispute and reach a settlement agreement, so it is crucial to help people understand what to expect. This will help you embrace the process and work toward an agreement.

Mediation Defined

Before diving into the ins and outs of mediation proceedings, it is important to understand what mediation is. Mediation is a collaborative effort between the parties involved to work together toward a resolution for their case. It is like a guided negotiation, with a mediator providing support and boundaries when needed and helping everyone work toward a solution. It is confidential and voluntary, allowing the parties and their attorneys to focus on resolution. Mediation is a vital part of the settlement process for many cases and disputes.

The Mediator’s Role

Another important aspect of mediation is the role of the mediator. The mediator is a neutral third party, meaning that they have no ties to either side or an interest in the outcome of the dispute. The mediator helps the parties find common ground and encourages them to participate openly and consider all solutions in mediation sessions. If the parties agree on a solution, they will help them draft a settlement agreement to sign.

Mediators are often former judges or attorneys with knowledge and training in mediation. They have spent much of their career helping others resolve disputes and encouraging resolution.

Understanding the Mediation Process

Now that we understand mediation and what the mediator does, we can begin to explore the process. Each step may look different depending on the parties’ needs and the mediator’s style, but generally, it will follow a similar pattern.

Choosing to Mediate

In most cases, the first step is for the parties to choose to mediate the dispute. Mediation is a voluntary process, meaning that one party cannot force the other party into it. After the parties agree to use mediation, they will need to choose a mediator or have one appointed.

The only time that a party is required to go to mediation is if it is court-ordered, which only happens in limited cases where a judge sees value in the parties attempting to reach an agreement.

Opening Statements

Once the parties have gathered for a mediation session, the mediator will open it with opening remarks. As the mediator talks, the parties need to listen, as they will often outline the goals of the mediation and establish any ground rules that need to be followed.

After the mediator concludes their opening statement, the other participants will have a chance to share their version of the dispute and evidence and present an outcome they would like to see. The other participants should listen to ensure they can identify interests and find solutions later.

Mediation Session

After opening statements are presented by the parties, the mediator will begin the negotiation process. They will either split the parties into two rooms and have a private meeting with each of them, or they will continue to discuss the possibilities in a joint session. The mediator will determine what is best based on the parties’ needs.

If the parties are in separate rooms, anything they discuss with the mediator will remain confidential. This allows the parties to be more open about where they are and any concerns they have about the case. If the parties have lawyers, the mediator may encourage the clients to talk more in the private space to assist in the discussions and advance a settlement agreement.

Continued Negotiations

Once the mediator has met with each party and their attorney, they will either move back and forth between the rooms to help settle the case, or they may choose to bring the participants together to discuss the benefits of the proposals. The mediator is not allowed to give advice or speak about their view of the likely outcome of the case. They are only there to guide the discussions and help each person work on the settlement.

Mediation Agreement

After the participants have discussed the issues thoroughly, they may decide to wrap up the session. A mediation session can end with a settlement agreement or other options.

Settlement Agreement

If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator will prepare the settlement agreement, which the parties sign. Once the mediated agreement is signed, it is enforceable in most jurisdictions. This means that if any party chooses not to follow the obligations, the other parties can sue them for a breach of contract. Settlement agreements may resolve the entire case, or they may only settle a part and leave the rest to litigation or other options.

Choosing Other Options

If the participants and their lawyers cannot sign an agreement at the end of the session, they will need to consider other options. The most common option after mediation is litigation. In litigation, the case will go to court, where the lawyers will demonstrate the opposing sides through a hearing or trial. A judge or jury will consult the facts of the case and issue a ruling. A person may also talk about arbitration to resolve the dispute. This is similar to a court hearing, but the process is confidential and often in front of subject matter experts who can make a good decision.


Even when mediation does not resolve the case, it often encourages everyone to continue discussing possible solutions and even results in an agreement later on. If you have a dispute, mediation is often one of the best ways to address it.

To learn more about what happens in mediation and other alternative dispute resolution, contact ADR Times!

Emily Holland
error: ADR Times content is protected.