What is mediation? How it can help solve disputes

Mediation is the process by which disputing parties reach their own mutually acceptable settlement with the assistance of a neutral third-party mediator. Mediation is used to resolve a range of disputes, including divorce, family, financial , child arrangements, workplace matters, and more.

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Many people prefer to resolve their issues through mediation, rather than go through lengthier and more costly legal routes. For instance, the costs of settling a divorce or other family issues in court can be significant, especially when disputes are drawn out in long court battles.

Mediation aims to avoid the contention, costs and challenges of going to court – helping parties reach a mutually agreed solution through practical discussion and the assistance of a trained mediator. Unlike orders made in court, mediation agreements are not legally binding.

As a result, mediation often helps individuals settle their disagreements quickly, as the process sets up a more constructive and collaborative environment from the outset. Mediation is also:

  • more flexible
  • more informal
  • confidential

What can mediation help with?

Mediation can be used wherever there is a dispute, whether between individuals or even between nations. It is most commonly used to resolve family, workplace, and civil or commercial disputes.

Professionally trained mediators can help individuals work out child arrangements, finances, and property disputes when separating. Mediation is flexible, making it helpful when arrangements need to change – such as when children grow up.

Mediation can help with a range of applications, including:

The mediation process can differ depending on the kind of issue. Although in every case, mediation helps parties find mutually agreeable solutions to resolve the dispute. Mediation can also help individuals improve communication, which benefits both parties in the long term where they have a continuing relationship, whether as parents or business partners or as colleagues in the same organisation.

For instance, mediation can not only help separating parents find a suitable child arrangement, but it can also help both parents develop healthier lines of communication as the child grows older.

Here at Mediation First, we offer mediation services across the UK, with online mediation available. The bulk of our work is focussed on disputes that arise out of the breakdown of a relationship, covering a range of family mediation matters.

Examples of mediation

As a form of conflict resolution, it can sometimes be difficult to understand where mediation applies – especially for disputes that involve legal intervention.

Here are some examples of where mediation may apply:

Type of Mediation Example
Divorce mediation Often used to help divorcing couples make mutual agreements on financial and property matters. For example, finding an acceptable compromise on how marital finances should be split when the divorce is finalised, including what will happen to the family home, any savings and investments or debts and also pensions
Child mediation Helps couples sort out arrangements for their children. The process is often used to make contact arrangements – for instance, agreeing on schedules for the time when the child or children will spend time with each parent, as well as arrangements for holidays including Christmas and birthdays. Mediators can also speak privately with the child, taking their wishes into consideration.
Workplace mediation Commonly used to settle disagreements in the workplace. Issues can include bullying and harassment claims, and communication issues.
Civil and commercial mediation Used for any dispute where you can ask a court to make a final decision - such as an unfulfilled building contract, a disputed boundary between properties, an argument about a relative’s Will or where a professional has acted negligently but the examples are near endless.

What does mediation involve?

Mediation can be an extremely positive process for everybody involved. The main purpose of mediation is to help individuals come to a mutual understanding regarding their disagreements.

The family mediation process is carried forward by an impartial third-party mediator, who enables constructive discussion between the parties. The mediator will usually speak to each party individually prior to the session, understanding their thoughts, intentions and expectations. This initial session is known as a MIAM (Mediation Information & Assessment Meeting).

The mediator can then help the parties identify the main issues, generate options for settlement and encourage possible solutions leading to an agreement. Mediators are trained to guide the conversation in a way that stays focused on the important matters at hand, and helps both parties consider each other’s view.

The process is completely voluntary, and parties are not expected to take part if they do not wish to. They can also end the mediation at any stage.

What are the 3 main types of mediation?

There are a variety of approaches to mediation. Mediators may use different strategies depending on the situation to achieve the best results. The 3 main types of mediation include evaluative, facilitative and transformative mediation.

Facilitative mediation

Facilitative mediation is the most common strategy used by mediation practitioners. Sometimes known as traditional mediation, facilitative mediation aims to enable negotiation between conflicting parties.

The mediator’s role in this style of mediation is to facilitate discussion between parties, rather than make recommendations or impose a decision. This is an effective strategy that encourages individuals to voluntarily reach their own mutual agreement by exploring their true interests.

The mediator will not share their views on the matter in facilitative mediation.

Evaluative mediation

Evaluative mediation takes an opposite approach to facilitative mediation. This type of mediation focuses on recommendations, where the mediator will make suggestions and express opinions that are intended to help parties reach an agreement.

This approach is more applicable to cases involving legal aspects. Evaluative mediators are able to help parties understand their legal rights and merits in order to make fair and viable decisions. Often, evaluative mediators have a wealth of legal expertise behind them.

Transformative mediation

Transformative mediation is focused on empowering disputing parties to come to an agreement. This strategy is grounded in facilitative mediation, whereby parties are encouraged to understand each other's interests. Although , transformative mediation takes a more ambitious approach, creating the space for emotions and expression.

This intends to encourage each side to really understand each other and evoke empathy. As the name suggests, transformative mediation aims to transform the relationship more significantly, with the communication skills needed to work more cooperatively.

Your experienced mediator will usually work with you to decide which method will be best for you throughout the mediation process. Each mediation session is unique, giving you the opportunity to resolve your disputes in a way that works for you.

When to mediate

Mediation can be used to settle a dispute at any stage in the disagreement. It is best to address the situation as soon as possible to prevent the issue from becoming worse or further damaging the relationship.

The earlier the issue is dealt with, the quicker you can move on.

Mediating earlier on can also help individuals rebuild relationships, facilitating clear communication strategies between parties that can be carried out following the mediation and beyond. This is particularly important in cases where there is an ongoing business or neighbour relationship.

It can sometimes be difficult to judge how bad a situation is. It is important to reflect and try to understand how the dispute is impacting your everyday life, how it will affect your future, and how it may affect other individuals.

If you are unsure about when to mediate, have questions about the process, costs, who pays, or something else, we can help advise on the best options for you. Simply get in touch with us to find out more.

Is mediation worth it?

Mediation is often extremely effective for individuals that wish to solve their dispute this way. The process is mostly positive, focusing on practical solutions for the future without the stress of legal routes.

At Mediation First, we see the vast majority of our clients move forward and resolve their dispute in only a few hours.

Individuals tend to be much more willing to compromise in mediation compared to court, since it is a voluntary process that gives both parties an equal opportunity to voice their concerns, allows them to assess the strengths and weaknesses of their and their opponent’s positions and to negotiate solutions that offer something for everyone.

In contrast, courts have the potential to intensify confrontation between parties. The courtroom setup can establish an air of opposition, which can make the situation more stressful.

The benefits of mediation

  • Less expensive than legal routes
  • Less stressful than going to court
  • Much quicker than the court process
  • More flexible, informal and completely confidential
  • Prevent relationship breakdown from ruining your, or your children's, future
  • Develop long term communication skills that help you work with your ex partner, or other party
  • The mediation experience aims to be as comfortable and inviting as possible

Move forward with mediation

Have a dispute that you’d like to resolve? Our mediators can help. We have a team of experienced mediators with expertise across family, children, financial, property, workplace and civil mediation. We are here to help you move forward and turn arguments into agreements.

To find out more, or enquire about mediation, speak to our friendly team to get started.

Tel: 0330 320 7600
Email: office@mediationfirst.co.uk.