First time going to mediation? Here’s what you need to know.
Mediation is a facilitated negotiation and first step in conflict resolution typically recommended before further litigation. The mediator plays an important role in helping the parties understand each other’s interests and helps them generate options to come to an agreement on how to move forward.
First off, let me acknowledge the difficult situation you’re in. No one goes to mediation because they are happy with their circumstances or they’ve been able to come to an agreement already. You might be preparing for a fight. You might be worried about showing your emotions or being on the receiving end of an outburst from the other party. You might be worried about how things will turn out, or that you’ll be forced to concede too much.
Know that your mediator is there to help. They’re there to give you the space to tell your perspective and help both sides come to a resolution they can live with. Here’s what to expect, and some tips to make the process a little easier for you.
What is mediation?
The Canadian Bar Association defines mediation as “the intervention into a dispute or negotiation by an acceptable, impartial and neutral third party who has no decision making power, to assist disputing parties in voluntarily reaching their own mutually acceptable settlement of issues in dispute”. It’s a meeting where you have someone facilitating your discussion, helping you draw out the underlying issues, and encouraging you to brainstorm options and possible solutions to come to an agreement that works for both parties. It’s not like going to court, where you present your case and a decision is imposed on you (and may not be in your favour). In mediation, you have the opportunity to be heard and to co-create an outcome that will save a lot of time and money.
Mediation is voluntary unless required by legislation prior to going to court (like in the Ontario Mandatory Mediation Program — more on that here). During the mediation, parties are not forced to agree to anything they don’t feel is reasonable — the option to continue going to court is still there if the parties can’t move through an impasse. Parties can also walk away from the mediation if they choose to. If this is what you decide, take a few minutes to discuss this with…