Rather than having someone else (such as a judge) decide for them, mediation services give disputing parties control over how their case is resolved. During a mediation session, the mediator will ask questions of both parties, help them understand each other, and assist them in devising mutually acceptable solutions to their conflict.
The goal is to settle the case through a process that is less expensive, quicker, and more private than the litigation process. It is also an opportunity for all parties involved in the dispute to preserve relationships that are important to them.
Mediation can be used at any stage of the process. It may be chosen as a first step in seeking a resolution, or it can be undertaken after other negotiations conducted by the parties alone have failed. In some jurisdictions, courts offer mediation services free or at a reduced rate. The parties can agree to choose a mediator from a list provided by the court or a local program or find one independently.
The mediator should have extensive training and experience in the subject matter of the dispute as well as a deep understanding of how mediation works. Depending on the complexity of the case, the parties may want to consider having both a subject-matter and a process specialist as co-mediators. Mediators will not take sides, pass down decisions, or reveal confidential information and are bound by the ethical rules of their profession. The cost of a mediation usually varies and is split equally between the participants.