Mediation is a voluntary process of cooperative problem solving in which a neutral third party, with special training and skills, helps individuals to work out mutually acceptable, agreements. The mediator is selected by agreement between the parties.

It is important to note that the mediator does not reach the solution; the parties do, with the mediator's help. Although conflict is difficult to deal with, and emotions often run high, you should come to mediation with an honest desire to reach a settlement that is fair to both and workable in practice. Participants in mediation must be prepared to be flexible in moving away from their initial positions to seek solutions which meet as many of their mutual interests as possible.

Mediation is voluntary, and either party is free to withdraw from mediation any time during the process. In fact, unless there is an existing contract between the parties which requires mediation if a dispute arises, or if required as part of a mandated court procedure, a party need not participate in mediation. In some circumstances, the mediator may also end the process, if he or she believes that mediation is not appropriate or useful for the parties. Although the process is voluntary, agreements reached through mediation can be as valid as any other contract.

Arbitration is a process where two or more parties, who have been unable to negotiate a solution to a problem, agree to put the matter to an independent neutral person to provide an answer, and to be bound by that decision. Sound simple? It can be, and has been known to be used by people in all societies since the days of the early Greek civilization.

Why? Because merchants involved in commercial disputes, shipping companies and their customers, insurance companies and the insured, unions and employers, have all found over the years that the process works. It provides sensible results without having to go to court. The popularly of arbitration over the years (and in fact, centuries) shows that the system works well and efficiently for those who use it. For example, complaints under union-management collective agreements are routinely resolved by arbitration - and it is the rare case that goes to appeal.

There are similarities between arbitration proceedings and those of the courtroom.

  • The arbitrator hears evidence from witnesses for the parties.

  • Each side is represented by a spokesman or advocate

  • The arbitrator listens to the arguments and produces a binding award, just as a court gives a judgment.

The differences between litigation / arbitration are:

  • No long written pleadings (through briefs and written argument can be used and are sometimes very effective)

  • Delays and extra "motions" are eliminated, or at least kept to a minimum

  • The rules of evidence and formality are relaxed and less constrictive




(c) 2008 North Florida Mediation Center ::  Tel (904) 731-3444