What is a typical mediation like?

UPDATED: Jul 18, 2023Fact Checked

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Jeffrey Johnson

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 18, 2023

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UPDATED: Jul 18, 2023Fact Checked

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.

Case Studies: Mediation Processes

Case Study 1: The Neighborly Dispute

In a quiet suburban neighborhood, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Smith had an ongoing disagreement regarding the height of a shared fence. They decided to seek mediation to find a mutually acceptable solution. During the opening session, both parties presented their concerns and the mediator facilitated an open dialogue to understand their perspectives.

Through separate caucuses, the mediator discovered that privacy and property aesthetics were the key motivations behind their positions. With the help of the mediator’s proposals and creative problem-solving, a resolution was reached. They agreed to install a taller fence on one side of the property while ensuring it maintained an aesthetically pleasing appearance for both parties.

Case Study 2: Workplace Conflict

In a corporate setting, two employees, Ms. Anderson and Mr. Patel, were involved in a conflict that was affecting their productivity and team dynamics. Their supervisor recommended mediation as a means to address the issue. In the joint meeting, the mediator allowed both parties to express their grievances and concerns.

However, during the caucuses, it became apparent that there were deeper issues related to communication and differing work styles. The mediator encouraged them to explore new possibilities and facilitated a compromise where they agreed to collaborate on projects requiring their complementary skills while also implementing clearer communication protocols.

Case Study 3: Family Business Dispute

Siblings, Sarah and Michael, found themselves at odds regarding the future direction of their family business. They sought mediation to prevent further damage to their relationship and the company. The mediator conducted separate caucuses with each sibling to understand their underlying motivations and perspectives. It became evident that Sarah wanted to expand the business while Michael preferred to maintain its current size.

The mediator proposed alternative business strategies that allowed for controlled growth while addressing Michael’s concerns about maintaining the business’s values. As a result, they reached an agreement to establish a subsidiary that would explore new markets while ensuring the core business remained intact.

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Jeffrey Johnson

Insurance Lawyer

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Insurance Lawyer

Mary Martin

Published Legal Expert

Mary Martin has been a legal writer and editor for over 20 years, responsible for ensuring that content is straightforward, correct, and helpful for the consumer. In addition, she worked on writing monthly newsletter columns for media, lawyers, and consumers. Ms. Martin also has experience with internal staff and HR operations. Mary was employed for almost 30 years by the nationwide legal publi...

Published Legal Expert

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

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