Step 1: The parties agree to use mediation
Mediation is a voluntary process and parties must agree to mediate.
Step 2: Choose a mediator
The parties must find a mediator that suits their needs. For example, if the dispute is a divorce proceeding or issues regarding a change in circumstances after divorce, then a mediator trained in family and divorce mediation would be suitable.
Step 3: Initial mediation session
Once the parties have agreed to mediate and have chosen their mediator, the first session will start. In my practice, this session usually runs as follows:
2. Formalities: – signing of Confidential Agreement to Mediate
4. Content of Agreement to Mediate:
– nature of mediation process
– ground rules
5. Outline of the steps in the process
6. Discussion of current status quo between the parties
7. Identifying the issues in dispute
8. Summary of session and way forward
Step 4: Information gathering and unpacking
In the following sessions I will usually meet with the parties individually in side sessions to gather information on the dispute, collect and peruse all relevant documentation and give each party an opportunity to give me a clear understanding of their position and their needs and expectations in the dispute.
Step 5: Joint session(s) with both parties
Here we lay out a ‘roadmap’ of the dispute: this session is about taking stock of what is in agreement, identifying the details of the dispute, identifying the stumbling blocks to better communication, exploring and generating options, setting tasks and creating steps to move forward.
Step 6: Agreement or no agreement
The objective is that during the course of the mediation the parties will reach a resolution on some, if not all of their issues in dispute. This may then be turned into a written agreement which the parties will sign with each other. They can then take the agreement to their attorneys to be made an Order of Court on the date of the hearing of their divorce or other matter. Or not, as the case may be. Every dispute is unique!
Sometimes resolution or agreement may not be reached – there are many reasons, such as the parties’ circumstances keep changing and things need to settle down before effective decisions can be made. Sometimes there are other issues that need to be resolved before the parties are ready to sit down with each other – perhaps some counselling is needed to first confront hurt feelings? Sometimes there is not enough information on the table? Whatever the case, the process is still a constructive one and in my experience, just the act of coming together to sit around a table becomes a catalyst for towards positive resolution – now or later.