Mediation is both simple and sophisticated. The first steps, of course, are agreeing to mediate and choosing the mediator. Mediation is very much driven by the disputing parties. There is no one correct way of running a mediation. Disputing parties may be represented by counsel at the mediation or they may not be. What happens next depends upon the type of mediation, the preference of the parties and the style of the mediator. Typically, there will be some initial housekeeping matters such as setting the agenda, signing the mediation agreement and the like.

The mediator will typically give an opening statement in which he or she discusses various basic matters relating to how the mediation will be conducted, confidentiality, conduct at the mediation etc. This is called the opening statement. The mediator may then meet separately with the parties or with both of the parties jointly and use their training to understand the issues in dispute, the relevant facts, and to facilitate discussions of options and alternatives for settlement.  In some circumstances, there will be a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s position statement.

The mediator, at his or her discretion, will alternate between meeting the parties together or separately. The mediator will encourage identification of interests, and mutual understanding of the partie’s respective positions. In a complex mediation, such as a family or divorce mediation which involves numerous issues, this process may continue over a number of sessions until each issue is resolved. At the conclusion of the mediation, depending upon the nature of the dispute, the parties are well-advised to reduce their settlement to a written memorandum of understanding or agreement.