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Resolution Washington is a state-wide association of Dispute Resolution Centers (DRCs).  There are currently 20 Dispute Resolution Centers operating in the cities and counties of Washington StateLearn more

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WHAT IS MEDIATION?

Mediation is a process where the people in dispute meet with a neutral third party to resolve conflicts.  Mediators are unbiased, neutral third parties, who guide parties through a structured negotiation process.  Mediators provide a safe, neutral environment and promote effective communication.  Mediators do not dictate the settlement, but assist the parties in reaching their own mutually agreeable solution. Mediation requires that the individuals in dispute be willing to express their concerns openly and honestly, and also consider the concerns of the other people in the dispute.  Mediation encourages collaboration between the parties so that creative solutions can be explored and lasting solutions can be found.  The process is effective in both legal situations where a lawsuit has been filed and in circumstances where a non-legal approach is preferred.  It is a non-adversarial, respectful and flexible process.

WHY USE MEDIATION? WHAT CAN BE  MEDIATED? HOW DOES IT WORK?

WHY USE MEDIATION?

Mediation is faster, cheaper, and often more effective than litigation.  Litigation can go on for years, while mediation is usually started and completed in a matter of a few weeks for even the most complex cases.

Litigation can cost you everything you own and leave you bankrupt even if you win! Many lawsuits cost in excess of $10,000.  The mediation of a case through a Dispute Resolution Center will cost considerably less.  And most centers can work out a fee structure that works within your annual income.

Litigation is “win/lose”.  This means there is a winner and a loser, and someone else has control of the outcome.  If you question people who have been through litigation you will find anger and bitterness lingering years after the case ended, even for the “winner”.  Litigation may result in a judgment, but that is no guarantee.  Studies show that people follow through on mediated agreements at a higher rate than they pay on judgments.  

Litigation often does not respect the needs of the individuals or their dignity.  Many disputes are personal matters, but most court proceedings are public record.  In mediation, the process is confidential and your privacy is respected.

Mediation is centered on the need for people to truly hear each other on a deeper level than is possible in litigation.  Mediation parties craft their own resolutions that work for them long term, rather than having a settlement imposed by a court.  Mediation also allows parties the opportunity to work through emotional issues that are left unattended in the legal system.  Parties who work through mediation have a much better chance of preserving on-going relationships.  And mediation encourages parties to learn effective negotiation skills.

Mediation can be one of the most gratifying ways to resolve conflict.  In most cases we hear comments similar to these:
“I heard her for the first time”
“I don’t have to quit my job.  We can really work together now.”
“I understand so much better now”
“We both won”
“I actually got paid”
“We can really stick to this solution”
“I feel heard for the first time”
“This was emotionally hard but a lot more satisfying than court”
“The children are the real winners now that we can talk”

WHAT CAN BE MEDIATED?

Almost any case can be successfully mediated.  Conflicts in life are many and no two conflicts are alike.  A partial list of case types is listed below.

Dissolution (aka Divorce)
Parenting Plan and Parenting Plan Modifications
Primary Residential Parent status issues (known as “custody” in other states)
Issues associated with transitioning families
Asset and debt division
Small claims cases
Elder care issues
Landlord / Tenant 
Neighborhood 
Land use
Merchant / Consumer 
Contractor / Client
Bankruptcy
Real estate
“Lemon Law” claims
Workplace problems
Board of Directors conflicts
Corporate conflict
Crime victim / Offender cases
Restitution
Lawsuits
Organizational conflicts
School disputes
Government agencies / Client
Employment issues
Union issues
Are you in a conflict with someone?  Before you call it quits, call your local Dispute Resolution Center to see how mediation can help.  If you have legal representation, we can still help you.  Check out “Why Mediate” for more information.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Mediation is usually initiated by a referral from a court, law enforcement agency, attorney or other source, or from a self-referral.  All it takes is a phone call to your local DRC to start the process. 

An intake worker will speak with you to learn about the dispute, who is involved, how long it has been going on, and other important details.  The other people involved are then contacted by the DRC staff and asked if they would be willing to participate in mediation to resolve the conflict. Since mediation is voluntary, the disputants have the right to refuse to participate unless they have been ordered into mediation by a court.  If the case is very simple, the DRC staff may work with the disputants to see if the situation can be resolved via their telephone communication with everyone.

If mediation is needed and all parties agree to participate, mediators are assigned to the case and a meeting date set.  The mediators come from all walks of life and all professions. They reflect the diversity of the communities they serve.  They all must have a minimum of 36 hours of formal classroom training in mediation, complete an extensive written examination and then complete a supervised internship with experienced, certified mediators.  Those who work with dissolution / family cases, group conflicts, victim / offender cases and many other types of cases must have additional training and experience.

When the participants arrive for the mediation session, they are greeted and brought into the mediation room. The mediators carefully explain the procedures to be followed and the steps of the mediation process.  If all agree to proceed with the mediation process, they sign the Agreement to Mediate and the mediation session continues.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality is the cornerstone of mediation. Because mediation is confidential, it means that nothing said or disclosed in the mediation can be used against them outside the mediation (with some legally required exceptions such as child abuse).  Confidentiality also means that mediators will not talk about their situation or that they have participated in mediation to others.  Additionally, the mediators cannot generally be subpoenaed or required to testify about the substance of the mediation session. The confidential nature of the mediation process creates a safe place for the participants to talk and to make offers they might not otherwise be comfortable making. It facilitates communication that has broken down during the conflict, and allows them to find settlements that work for them.   

Opening Statements

Each party is encouraged to make an opening statement setting forth the issues and what they desire as a settlement.  This is their time and is generally uninterrupted. The mediators reflect back the information given to them to make certain that they have the information correct. The mediators may ask some clarifying questions to gain further information.  Each party is also given the opportunity to respond to what they have heard.

Negotiations

Once the opening statements are complete, the mediators and participants will create an agenda of the outstanding issues.  This serves as a guide for the remainder of the session.  The mediators then assist the participants in negotiating those outstanding issues directly with each other.  The mediators may help them “think outside the box” in creating potential solutions, but the mediators do not impose a settlement of any kind.  They may ask some difficult questions to make sure the solutions and possible consequences have been thought through, but this process belongs to the participants, not the mediators.

When a settlement agreement is reached, it is placed in writing and signed.  Once a settlement agreement is reached, the mediation case file is closed.

Why It Works

Mediation works because the parties have been fully heard and their concerns and needs have been met and addressed through the settlement agreement they reach.  It is their own agreement and has not been created or imposed by others.  It is therefore much more likely to be a lasting settlement than if imposed by a court, hearing officer or arbitrator. 

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