dispute resolution


An agreement to mediate is a legally binding document. It sets forth the conditions and regulations for parties to enter into a mediation process to resolve their conflicts. It serves as the bedrock for the mediation proceedings, establishing the standards and obligations for all involved parties. This crucial document encompasses essential factors, such as the scope of the mediation, the mediator’s role, privacy clauses, the duration of the process, and any associated expenses.


■ Step 1: Introduction and opening statements:

• The mediator introduces themselves and explains their role in facilitating the process.
• Participants are invited to share their perspectives and expectations.
• Ground rules, including principles of confidentiality, neutrality, and voluntary participation, are established.


■ Step 2: Issue identification and agenda setting:

• Participants identify and prioritise the issues they wish to address.
• The mediator helps refine and structure the agenda for the sessions.


■ Step 3: Joint sessions and private caucuses (separate meetings):

• Joint sessions involve all participants discussing issues and working towards resolutions.
• Private caucuses allow the mediator to meet individually with each party to explore concerns confidentially.


■ Step 4: Information gathering and exploration:

• Participants share relevant information, viewpoints, and concerns.
• The mediator facilitates a deeper exploration of the underlying interests and needs driving the conflict.


■ Step 5: Generating options and brainstorming:

• Collaborative brainstorming sessions lead to the generation of multiple potential solutions for each issue.
• Participants are encouraged to think creatively and explore mutually agreeable alternatives.


■ Step 6: Negotiation and reality testing:

• Participants engage in negotiation, refining and testing proposed solutions.
• The mediator assists in evaluating the practicality and consequences of various options.


■ Step 7: Agreement formulation:

• As consensus is reached, the mediator helps formalise the agreements.
• The terms are documented, ensuring clarity and understanding by all parties.


■ Step 8: Review and finalisation:

• Participants review the drafted agreements for accuracy and completeness.
• Any necessary adjustments are made, and final agreement documents are prepared.


■ Step 9: Closure and follow-up:

• The mediator summarises the achievements and ensures everyone is clear on the agreed-upon terms.
• Follow-up plans are discussed, and participants may be encouraged to seek legal advice before finalising the agreements.


The mediator facilitates the process to assist the parties with the attempted resolution of their dispute through identification of the areas of agreement, relevant issues in dispute, problem-solving, and generating proposals for possible resolution. The mediator acts in an impartial and neutral manner and does not give legal advice, or make any findings or recommendations.


Facilitating dialogue: the mediator encourages an open communication environment by enabling individuals to communicate their opinions, concerns, and needs. This discourse is critical for identifying the underlying difficulties and reaching mutually beneficial solutions.

Active listening: mediators employ active listening techniques, ensuring that participants feel heard and validated. This involves paraphrasing, summarising, and reflecting back the emotions and content expressed by each participant.

Clarifying issues: the mediator helps clarify misunderstandings, ensuring that all participants have a clear understanding of the issues at hand. This promotes a more informed and constructive negotiation process.

Options generation: mediators assist participants in thinking about and developing a variety of solutions to each issue. This fosters innovation and broadens the variety of possible solutions.

Reality testing: mediators may assist participants in evaluating the practicality and feasibility of proposed solutions. This involves exploring the potential consequences and implications of different options.

Prioritising concerns: participants work together to prioritise their concerns and identify the most critical issues to address. This helps streamline the negotiation process and focus on key areas of importance.

Building consensus: mediators facilitate discussions aimed at building consensus. Through constructive dialogue and negotiation, participants work towards agreements that are acceptable and beneficial to all parties involved.

Managing emotions: emotional dynamics are addressed during the combined sessions. Mediators assist participants in managing and constructively expressing their emotions, ensuring that emotions do not impede the negotiating process.

Breaking deadlocks: in cases where parties reach impasses or deadlocks, mediators employ techniques to break the stalemate. This may involve reframing issues, exploring alternative solutions, or taking a brief break to allow emotions to settle.

Closure and agreement: once agreements are reached, the mediator assists in summarising the terms and conditions. Participants have the opportunity to review and finalise the agreement, ensuring clarity and mutual understanding.


The following criteria can guide the selection of an effective mediator:


Training and certification: a qualified mediator should have completed comprehensive training in mediation techniques, conflict resolution, and related fields. Look for certifications from reputable mediation organisations, indicating that the mediator has met specific professional standards.

Experience in mediation: take into account the mediator’s actual mediation experience, particularly with instances that are comparable to yours. An experienced mediator has a lot of knowledge, having handled a variety of disputes and assisted in finding workable solutions.

Educational background: while not the sole determinant, a mediator’s educational background can provide insights into their knowledge base. Look for mediators with degrees or advanced training in fields such as law, psychology, social work, or conflict resolution. You might not want a tow-truck driver or hairdesser that just completed 5 day course in mediation to attend to your complex mediation matter that could influence your future.

Specialised expertise: depending on the nature of the dispute, seek a mediator with specialised knowledge in the relevant area. For example, family mediators should have expertise in family law and dynamics, while workplace mediators should be familiar with employment laws and organisational dynamics.

Professional memberships: membership in professional mediation societies or organisations demonstrates a mediator’s dedication to ethical standards and continuous professional growth. Check for links with reputable mediation organisations.

Neutrality and impartiality: a qualified mediator must demonstrate neutrality and impartiality throughout the process. The mediator should not have any conflicts of interest or biases that could compromise their ability to facilitate fair and unbiased discussions.

Communication skills: effective communication is central to successful mediation. A skilled mediator should be an active listener, capable of fostering open dialogue, clarifying issues, and facilitating effective communication between parties.

Empathy and cultural sensitivity: mediators must be empathetic and culturally sensitive, recognising and respecting diverse perspectives and cultural nuances. This is particularly important when dealing with cases involving different cultural backgrounds or identities.

Problem-solving skills: a proficient mediator should possess strong problem-solving skills, guiding parties through the identification of issues, brainstorming of solutions, and negotiation of mutually agreeable outcomes.

Ethical standards: assess the mediator’s adherence to ethical standards and professional conduct. Look for mediators who uphold principles of confidentiality, informed consent, and the highest ethical practices.

Feedback and references: seek feedback from previous clients or references. Testimonials and references provide valuable insights into a mediator’s effectiveness, professionalism, and the outcomes achieved in past cases.

Cost and accessibility: consider the mediator’s fees and accessibility. Ensure that the cost aligns with your budget, and the mediator is available for sessions at convenient times for all parties involved.

 Trauma informed: especially in family mediation, look for a mediator that is trauma informed. Trauma-informed mediation is an approach that recognises and responds to the impact of trauma on individuals involved in the mediation process. It acknowledges that individuals may have experienced various forms of trauma, which can influence their perceptions, emotions, and behaviours during conflict resolution.


Mediators are skilled individuals who aid disputing parties in coming to a mutually agreeable resolution without resorting to litigation. Their services come with a fee (in most cases much less than court proceedings), which is influenced by various elements including the nature and intricacy of the disagreement, the mediator’s credentials and expertise, if any legal processes need to be followed after the mediation as well as prevailing market prices and the demand for mediation.


Hourly or daily rate:

The most commonly used fee structure by mediators is the hourly or daily rate, where a fixed amount is charged for each hour or day of service. The total fee depends on the duration of the mediator’s involvement, which includes pre-mediation meetings, document review, preparation, mediation sessions, follow-up, and reporting.

Fixed fee:

This is a fee structure where the mediator charges a fixed amount for the entire mediation process, regardless of the time spent or the outcome achieved. The advantage of this fee structure is that it is predictable and affordable, and the parties can budget for the mediation in advance.


Mediators may use a combination or a variation of these fee structures, or they may use other fee structures that suit their practice and their clients. Mediators may also negotiate or adjust their fees with the parties, depending on the circumstances and the expectations of the mediation process.


The financial and time implications of traditional legal proceedings in comparison to mediation illuminate the stark differences between these two approaches. In traditional legal battles, the exorbitant costs associated with attorney fees, court filings, and unexpected expenses can escalate rapidly, placing a significant strain on the financial resources of the parties involved. In addition, the lengthy durations of court cases—which can last for months or even years—also add to the ongoing unpredictability and disruption. The inflexibility of court calendars and the possibility of appeals make time limitations even more severe.


Conversely, mediation shows itself to be a very efficient and economical option. Because mediation involves less formal legal proceedings, it is less expensive and provides a more predictable and shared financial commitment. Mediation’s ability to resolve disputes quickly is evidence of its adaptability and teamwork. Sessions may be scheduled at times that work for both parties, which speeds up the settlement process. Once an agreement is reached, its swift implementation minimises downtime, allowing businesses to redirect their focus from protracted legal battles back to their core operations.


The good news is that the vast majority of clients find a way forward in just a few sessions. In successful mediation, the parties frequently shift from an adversarial (“one party against the other”) to a solution-oriented (“both parties against the problem”) mindset. Even if the parties do not reach a settlement agreement, the process can still allow them to gain a better understanding of the issues at stake and overcome unrealistic expectations.


However, there are some participants who can’t reach an agreement through the mediation sessions. Some mediators offer a hybrid form of mediation where the couple would then bring their attorney to be part of the mediation meetings in the hope that having legal advice ‘on tap’ will help find a solution.


However, there are some cases where a consensus simply cannot be found. In those cases, the participants may then decide to each appoint an attorney to try and negotiate a settlement or they may conclude that there is no alternative but to apply to the court for a Judge or Magistrate to decide. Even in those situations, the couple can use all the information that has been discussed in the mediation sessions as the foundation of their further negotiations.


Confidentiality in mediation is a cornerstone principle that establishes a private and secure space for parties to engage in open and honest communication. This assurance allows participants to freely express their perspectives, concerns, and potential solutions without the fear of public exposure or legal consequences. By safeguarding the confidentiality of discussions, the mediation process promotes transparency and supports the exploration of settlement options that might be hindered in a more adversarial setting. This commitment to confidentiality not only preserves the integrity of the mediation process but also builds trust among the parties, fostering an environment where they can collaboratively work towards resolution.


It’s important to note that the extent of confidentiality may vary based on local laws and the specific terms outlined in the agreement to mediate. While discussions within mediation are generally protected, exceptions exist in exceptional cases involving potential harm or illegal activities.