Mediation is a voluntary, non-binding, and private dispute resolution process in which a neutral person helps parties to a dispute or other impasse between them try to reach a negotiated settlement
In most cases mediation cannot take place unless the parties agree to enter the process. Mediation is not possible without the participation of all parties, and will cease if one party leaves the process, which they are generally free to do at any time.
Mediation is also truly voluntary, as entering the process does not bind the parties to reach settlement. Settlement can only come about on the authority of the parties concerned as the mediator has no authority to make a binding determination. If a settlement is reached the agreed terms when reduced to writing will form part of an enforceable contract.
The mediation process is both “without prejudice” to any existing litigation and confidential to the extent the law permits. This means that parties can conduct themselves in the mediation, for example by disclosing information, expressing views, making suggestions or offering concessions, relatively safe in the knowledge that this will not preclude them arguing a different position should the matter proceed to trial.
The role of the mediator and the confidential nature of mediation negotiations helps parties to focus on and realise their true needs and interests. Any litigation then becomes only a frame of reference, or point of departure from which to formulate a wider agreement.