Mediation is the process of resolving disputes through the use on an impartial third party mediator. The goal of the process is to find a mutually acceptable resolution to the dispute. This is achieved through collaborative problem solving between the parties in dispute, a focus on rebuilding rather than placing blame and the acknowledgement of feelings as well as facts in order to allow the parties to relinquish anger in the process of moving towards resolution.

A proper mediation should do all of this and should be used as a preventive tool for effectively stopping problems before they escalate. The goal in most mediations is to resolve the dispute without the need for a lengthy and expensive legal proceeding.

In mediations, if one person asks for mediation, all involved parties are approached and asked if they agree to take part in the mediation. Each party involved in the mediation is visited by the mediator individually. The mediator will inquire as to how the party views the current situation and their expectations for the future relationship with the opposing party. Information shared at this point in the process is private and confidential unless otherwise agreed. The exception to this would be in the case of the disclosure of serious abuse.

The mediator will then explain the structure of the mediation and ask all involved to agree to some basic rules. These might include listening without interrupting or refraining from using offensive remarks or comments. Each party will talk about the problem as it affects them. The mediator will make sure that all involved understand what each person has said and allow them to respond. The mediator will then help the parties determine what the issues that need to be sorted out are. This initial process often leads to solutions previously unexplored because the parties were too deeply in conflict to discuss them.

Once an agreement is reached, it is written and signed by both parties and the mediator. This is not a binding contract and is not enforcable in court until both parties decide to make it a legal contract. The agreement does not prohibit either party from finding other ways of dealing with the dispute.

Mediation is often successful simply because both parties can be heard. Sometimes all that a person wanted was a simple apology. The process of mediation is empowering th individuals and it encourages people to put their own ideas forward, rather than having a judge or a lawyer decide what's best. It is less intimidating and more personal, and since the parties themselves have decided what the best solution is, it gives both parties a sense of ownership in the agreement. This often results in an agreement that makes both sides happy and is more likely to be adhered to by both sides.

The other benefit of mediation is the quickness with which a resolution is reached. Rather than a lengthy and expensive court proceeding, the parties can deal with the issues quickly, before the disagreement can escalate. Mediation usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks, but can be much quicker if the parties are open to the process. The mediation itself often lasts less than one day.

The cost of litigation is mostly avoided and some forms of mediation are free. Most neighbour mediation is free and many types of community mediation are available at reasonable rates. The success rate of mediation is about 93%. This means that they are resolved then and there. The rest may be settled later in court, but mediation often helps direct the disputants focus.

Mediation is completely private and the mediator destroys all of their notes once mediation is complete. The mediator cannot be called as a witness in court. The mediator is considered "without prejudice" and cannot be used in court or in any arbitration proceedings unless both parties agree to a legally binding contract.

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