Mediation is an informal and non-adversarial process in which the goal is to help disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable agreement regarding the issues in dispute. The parties make the decisions in the mediation process, not the mediator or a judge. The mediator’s role includes helping the parties identify issues, facilitating the discussion, encouraging joint problem-solving, and exploring various settlement alternatives. The mediator is neutral and impartial in the mediation process. “Family mediation” usually refers to the mediation of disputes between married or unmarried persons involving dissolution of marriage, shared or sole parental responsibility of children, time sharing, child support, alimony, or property division.
Mediation differs from litigation in many essential aspects. Unlike litigation, mediation is not an adversarial process in the traditional sense of the term. In an adversarial proceeding, each party presents evidence and arguments to a neutral person, usually a judge, who decides the case. In mediation, the parties share responsible for making decisions, sometimes with the help of their attorneys.
Usually, a wider range of possible resolutions can be considered in the mediation process, as compared to court proceedings, where the legal options are usually more limited.
Another important difference between mediation and litigation concerns the confidentiality of the proceedings. Unlike the information disclosed in court proceedings, communications made during mediation are confidential, and are inadmissible as evidence in any legal proceeding.
Perhaps the most important difference between mediation and litigation is that the parties can maintain control over deciding important issues for themselves and their children, rather than leaving these decisions to “a stranger in a black robe.”