The Mediation Process from Start to Finish

by Bryana Nelson

When you call Mediation Services of Adams County for help with a conflict, our Intake Coordinator will call you back to ask for basic information such as names of those involved, telephone numbers, and a brief description of the situation. The Intake Coordinator will then determine if the situation is suitable for mediation, and if so, will contact the other party involved. Once mediation is explained and both parties agree to mediate, the Intake Coordinator will then select, from a list of trained mediators, two of the most qualified mediators for that particular situation.

The mediators are then contacted and asked to mediate. Once both mediators agree, the Intake Coordinator will then arrange a mutual place and time, convenient for all involved, for the mediation session to take place. MSAC works cooperatively with various organizations in Adams County to use their facilities for mediations.

At the mediation session, the mediators first introduce themselves and ensure that the parties are comfortable. Depending on the type of mediation, guidelines or ground rules will be discussed and may vary depending upon the needs of the parties. The mediators will go over the process of the mediation and what is expected of each participant. They will also explain the mediator role, which is to be a neutral facilitator assisting the parties in reaching an agreement. Mediators will not issue a decision or offer advice. An Agreement to Mediate listing this information will be reviewed and signed.

Each party will tell his/her version of the situation. The mediators will ask clarifying questions and make sure that each person understands the topics that are surfacing. (Note: This part of the process is one of the most important as it is during this time that each party is able to listen and understand the perspective of the other, perhaps for the first time).

These issues are then reviewed and discussed by both parties, who will then begin to brainstorm for possible solutions. Their suggestions are evaluated and negotiated by the parties, with the help of the mediators, until an amicable agreement is reached. The Agreement will then be written out and signed by all parties, including the mediators. Each party will be given a copy of the agreement and will leave the mediation session with an understanding of future options.

A typical mediation session lasts from two to three hours, depending upon the complexity of the conflict. There may also be a need for more than one session. If further sessions are needed, the mediators, along with the parties, will schedule the next session.

All notes that a mediator takes during a session are destroyed. Moreover, the mediators may not discuss the parties or the nature of the conflict outside of the mediation itself. They are bound by confidentiality, as are all parties to the mediation, whether it be a property settlement, a custody agreement or a neighborhood dispute.

For more information regarding mediation, please call Mediation Services of Adams County at 717-334-7312 or visit our website at MSAC mediators are available to speak to you and/or your group regarding the benefits of mediation and conflict resolution training. Se habla Espanol.

Bryana Nelson is a Board Member and Mediator with Mediation Services of Adams County.