What happens in mediation

Court-ordered mediation must begin with an introduction by the mediator explaining the process and the role of the mediator.  Among other things, the mediator should explain that the parties make the decisions, not the mediator. The mediator’s introduction is usually followed by an opportunity for you and the other party to describe your concerns.  If your lawyer is with you at mediation, these opening remarks may be made by you, your lawyer, or both of you.  After these initial procedures, how the mediation is conducted varies.  The mediator usually will meet with both parties together to discuss the issues to help you work out your differences.  The mediator may also meet with each party privately.  This separate meeting is called a caucus.  Generally, unless you give the mediator permission to repeat what you say in caucus, the mediator is prohibited from sharing what is discussed.

If you are represented by a lawyer, you and your lawyer will decide how the two of you will interact during the mediation.  Some lawyers instruct their clients not to talk during mediation.  If this is your decision with your lawyer it is fine; however, it is important for you to know that you are allowed to speak to the mediator at any time.

Eventually, the mediation will end in one of three ways, either:

1) the parties reach an agreement as to some or all issues – all parties (and their lawyers if present) must sign the agreement;

2) the mediator declares an impasse (because you, the other party, or both are unwilling to continue discussing resolution); or

3) the mediator, with the parties’ consent, continues the mediation session by adjourning for the day.  If the mediator declares an impasse as to some or all issues, then you and the other party will have to go back to court to have the judge or jury (if there is one) decide your case.