Mediation is a means by which a trained third-party, the mediator, helps two parties get to a resolution of their dispute or problem. There is nothing magical about mediation; it is a process that believes the parties best equipped to resolve their differences are the parties who are in disagreement. The process of mediation is voluntary and informal. The parties may leave the mediation at any time and there is no penalty that is brandished to require that the parties reach an agreement. Mediation is informal and it is part of the broad universe known to us as ADR-alternate dispute resolution.
The mediator tries to get the parties to get to Win-Win. This goal is achieved when both parties realize that they gain more by reaching an agreement than by having a third-party decide the matter for them. After a successful mediation, the parties have learned to distinguish between their positions and their needs. The mediator tries to guide the parties through the process utilizing, inter alia, listening skills, re-framing, problem-solving strategies, and caucusing.
In divorce mediation, the mediation model works well with all issues in dispute, with the possible exception of custody issues. Eventually the parties are able to reduce their agreement to writing, in the form of an agreement or memorandum of understanding. The mediator is not the attorney for either party and the parties are therefore encouraged to have legal review of their agreement before it is finalized.
Mediators receive training in the skills they will need for their art by formal training and observation of others who are proficient in the mediation process. There are ethical laws that govern mediators, and they are somewhat related to those rules which govern attorneys. Successful mediators, however, do not need to be attorneys. They must be, however, good listeners, open-minded, and interested in helping people find solutions to what may appear as intractable problems. Mediators do not dictate results. They act as facilitators in helping the parties reach a solution to their conflict which both parties can live with.