What is a typical mediation like?

There are many styles of mediation.

In one of the most common styles, the disputants (and their lawyers, if they are using lawyers) meet with the mediator for an opening session. The mediator explains the process she will be using and what is expected of everyone. Then the disputants each tell their side of the dispute and the mediator asks questions to be sure she understands. The joint meeting usually breaks up into two separate meetings, or caucuses.

The mediator then talks to each side in the caucus in an attempt to learn what is motivating the dispute, what the underlying issues are, and where there are areas for movement from established positions. The mediator may ask more penetrating questions than in the joint session, since what goes on in caucus is confidential and not conveyed to the other side.

The mediator may offer to try different proposals on the other side to see what the response might be. The disputants do not have to take responsibility for any position the mediator is trying out, because it is not their position – only a mediator’s attempt at moving the process along.

Ordinarily, the mediator moves between the disputants, helping them invent new possibilities, trying out ideas, and narrowing the differences. A successful mediation ends in an agreement that resolves the underlying dispute.

The mediation process is often used between disputing parties in a divorce; click here for an article explaining how divorce mediation works.