Mediation is a voluntary process of parties working
with a neutral third party (the mediator) to resolve
conflicts through negotiation. The goal of mediation
may be a written agreement to set out what each party
has agreed to and will commit to. The process may also
lead to a better understanding of the other persons concerns
and views, with a commitment for a change in behaviour
to help reduce or eliminate current and future conflicts.
What if the Mediator Takes Sides?
Family mediators are trained to
be neutral and not side with one person or the other.
At different times in the mediation process you may feel
the mediator is doing that, but often, the other person
is likely also feeling the same. Mediators try and balance
the amount of time each person has to speak their mind,
and mediators try to ensure all parties have enough time
to exchange their ideas and concerns with each other.
If you feel the mediator is biased, ask them about that
and decide if their answer satisfies you as to their
neutrality and ability to provide a fair service to you
both. If it does not, you can end the process, or seek
out a different mediator.
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Will I be Forced to Make an Agreement?
People need time to consider the
short and long term consequences of signing any agreement.
If you are working towards a written agreement, you should
get INDEPENDENT LEGAL ADVICE from your own lawyer before
signing anything. A competent mediator will strongly
advise you to consider all the issues and to seek out
independent advice before committing to anything in the
agreement. If you feel pressured to agree, you can simply
end the mediation session by leaving. It is a VOLUNTARY
process and you have to feel comfortable with the mediator,
the process, and the agreement you are working on.
How Long Does it Take?
Some people are better at negotiating
issues than others. Some people are angry and need time
to get past that and work productively on the issues
that are part of the conflict. Some families have very
complicated situations that require more time to discuss
and resolve. The more you can prepare ahead of time for
the mediation session, the better.
How Much Will it Cost?
Mediators will tell you up front
what they charge per hour; and sometimes you can negotiate
this with them if they offer a sliding scale of fees.
The parties to the mediation share all the costs either
equally, or as they agree between them. Most mediators
accept payments at the end of each session, or may ask
you to pay a retainer to cover the first few hours of
time. The more efficient and businesslike the negotiation,
the faster it usually goes, so don’t use the mediation
session as therapy, or an opportunity to vent your anger
on the other person. Those issues can be better addressed
I Prepare for a Mediation Session?
- think through what you really want, that
will satisfy your concerns
- decide to be businesslike and use the mediation time to work productively
- locate and bring with you all documents, financial information, and a
brief point-form history of the situation, or chronology of events
- do any homework assigned to you after the previous session such as finding
the value of an asset, locating documents or confirming dates that are
important to the issues
Concerned About Abuse in Your Relationship?
Mediation works best when both parties
can discuss fairly and evenly between them the issues
to be resolved If there is a history of verbal, emotional
or physical abuse in your relationship, mediation may
not be appropriate for you. If you are scared at the
consequences of speaking up in the mediation process,
or afraid of physical harm in being near the other person,
discuss this with the mediator before you start any joint
sessions. Sometimes with good supports from counselors
and others, a person who has experienced abuse may be
able to negotiate a good outcome in the mediation process.
However, physical and emotional safety comes first, so
if you have doubts about entering into a process of mediation,
look at what other options you have to resolve the issues,
such as going to court, or having a lawyer negotiate
on your behalf.
a Family Mediator