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Mediation is a common, but little understood, term. Bankrate explains what it means.

What is mediation?

Mediation is an effective method for settling disputes without the need to go to court. You can think of it as an assisted negotiation. The disputes could stem from various situations, such as financial disputes, contract disputes, family disputes, consumer disputes or neighborhood disputes.

During mediation, the parties involved in the dispute come together in an effort to reach an agreement. An impartial party leads the mediation to ensure that both disputing parties are collaborative. Mediators often have a law background.

Deeper definition

The mediation process usually begins with a statement from the mediator defining the goals of the mediation. The parties involved are required to be in one room and usually are free to ask questions before the process starts. The parties, however, are not allowed to question each other when the process starts. Each party is allowed to make an opening statement and highlight the issues they want resolved through mediation.

After the opening statements, the mediator meets with both parties to discuss the weaknesses and strengths of the case and the ideas they might have for settlement. Offers and demands are made throughout the process until an agreement is reached.

If the arbitrator feels an agreement cannot be reached, he has the power to end negotiations. As well, both parties can leave the negotiations for any reason or for no reason at all.

Mediation example

The length of the mediation process depends on the complexity of the case. If the case is straightforward, then mediation may take a few hours. If the case is complex, it may last for several days. For instance, most employment and personal injury mediations last a day.

The agreement made during the mediation process is not legally binding, meaning that the parties involved can opt to back out of the deal. To keep this from happening, the agreement is made binding. The agreement can be in written or oral form. In the case of written agreements, each party has to consent and sign after they have read and understood the agreement and their attorneys have had the chance to review it. Oral agreements have to be stated in a court of law and made part of the court’s recording.

When parties cannot reach an agreement, they have two options: Continue with the mediation process or resolve the dispute in court.

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