Is there a public record made of what occurs in a mediation?
UPDATED: October 6, 2011
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There is generally no record made of a mediation, and nothing from a mediation proceeding becomes public knowledge, like court cases and transcripts sometimes can. When you submit a dispute to mediation, the matter is handled privately between you, the other parties involved in the dispute, and the mediator. This is one of the advantages of mediation.
The mediation process is a voluntary type of alternative dispute resolution. While some courts may mandate that a dispute be submitted to arbitration before they will hear the case, a mediator is not ever going to be able to compel the parties to do anything and either party can always walk away from the mediation at any time.
The purpose of mediation, and the mediator's role, is not to make a ruling, or even to influence the decision that is ultimately made. Instead, the point is for the mediator to help the people who are having a dispute resolve the issue amicably amongst themselves. This can be less expensive than litigating a full case in front of a judge, if it works. The mediators are normally trained negotiators that help to facilitate communication and assist the parties in getting at the crux of the dispute. Each party can express what is most important to him or her, and the mediator will help the other party to really listen. Ideally, with this structured and open communication, an agreement can be reached.
Mediation may be used in divorce cases by parties who don't want a public record of their private marital and financial matters. It can also be a more amicable way to divide up assets and custody of the kids, allowing for more autonomy of the parties. Divorce is, of course, not the only situation in which mediation is used in, but it tends to be one where it is especially favored.
If you are participating in mediation, you will still want a lawyer on your side to help protect your legal rights and make sure that any agreement you arrive at is fair and just.