What is mediation?
People come to mediation to solve a problem or prevent a conflict. Unlike court, they do not need to show evidence or prove their cases. They just need to be willing to hear the concerns of the person and be able share, in a respectful way, how they see things.
The mediator helps people look for ways they can be flexible to meet the needs of the other person while meeting their own needs. It is a private way for two or more people to work to solve problems or talk about issues important to them with the help of a neutral third party.
In mediation, you can make agreements you want to follow, which is different than a court hearing where a judge weighs evidence and makes a ruling that you must follow. Mediators try to keep people working together and try to rebuild damaged relationships as part of the process. Even when past damage is deep and cannot be fully repaired, mediators can help people make plans on how they can work together in the future.
What is the difference between mediation, facilitation, arbitration, and negotiation?
Mediation allows each party to have input. The mediator helps everyone hear each other and helps people make their own decisions about the outcome. Everyone agrees to the final solution in a mediated agreement.
- Facilitation is how a mediator helps communication, the sharing of information, and the use of these to build a solution or plan.
- Arbitration is the process with a third-party facilitator that chooses the solution and makes decisions for the parties, as a judge would in a court case.
- Negotiation is the process of give and take working towards building a common solution.
What are the advantages of mediation?
Mediation offers the chance to have difficult conversations in a comfortable setting. The process of gathering evidence and testifying in court can be embarrassing and do long-lasting damage to relationships, making it more difficult to get along in the future. The power to make decisions stays with you and the other person rather than having the details of your plan decided by the Court. Mediation is a cost-effective way to resolve a Court-related matter.
What are the steps in the process?
Someone opens a case – one of the people looking for an agreement, or the Court or an agency.
We work with each side to get the needed forms and fees (a sliding fee scale is offered).
There is an individual private session (IPS) with each person and the mediator. This session is important because it gives your mediator a chance to make sure there is no conflict of interest (we live in small towns and sometimes people don’t realize they are connected just by looking at a name). It also lets the mediator see the situation from each person’s perspective. The IPS is also an opportunity for the mediator to help you prepare for the joint session, so this is the time to talk to the mediator if you have any concerns about safety or being able to negotiate freely with the other person so s/he can help you plan how to address your concerns.
The main mediation begins with the people trying to reach agreement working together through either a joint session (at the same table/zoom meeting) or a caucus session (parties share information alone with the mediator in private setting; the mediator shuttles information back and forth between parties). Your mediator will decide how to move forward based on his/her experience and which process s/he thinks will lead to the best results in your case. In session, you will pinpoint the important issues to talk about and explore different ways to address each issue. The goal is to reach agreements that acceptably meet each person’s needs.
How do I schedule a mediation?
If you haven’t yet filled out our form, click here. You will be asked to provide:
- Contact information for yourself
- Contact information for the other party you want to mediate with
- Some basic information about your situation and a brief description of what you hope to accomplish in mediation
A $29 payment with income verification if you are requesting reduced fees on our sliding fee scale; or, a payment up to $399 if you are not applying for reduced fees.
Once Mediation West receives this information, we will let you know what your fees would be to move forward and when the fees are paid, you will be contacted by a mediator to schedule your individual session. If you are unable to access a computer to open a case on our website, you can contact our office to open a case.
What is the role of the mediator?
A mediator’s role might be described as a communication coach. S/he guides the discussion while you and the other person share your own ideas and make your own suggestions. S/he will help you and the other party to communicate in ways that calm the struggle and will ask questions meant to help you find any possible win-win scenarios for your agreement. A mediator remains neutral and impartial in the process and does not take sides. S/he will not make decisions for you, force a particular plan, or give any advice.
Who can be part of my mediation?
Most of the time the two people working to reach agreement are the only people “in the room” with the mediator.
For parenting plan cases, we typically work with only the biological parents, but stepparents may be included if all parties and the mediator agree it is likely to be helpful in your case.
For restorative justice cases, you may talk with your mediator about having a support person with you as you meet with the person who caused you harm.
For Court-ordered cases there may be professionals your mediator will need to invite.
For all cases, you may talk to your mediator about having your attorney present or available for consultation. If you plan to invite another person to the mediation session, you must discuss this with the mediator so s/he can assess the appropriateness of having that person there and can let the other party know so s/he isn’t surprised.
Bringing someone to a session without warning may result in the cancellation and rescheduling of your session; this could increase the cost of mediation for you.
Should children be involved in mediation?
Sometimes. Children are not appropriate support persons for adults and should not be brought to sessions for adults or be able to hear your individual or joint sessions held over the phone or by videoconference.
If a child is affected in a case, using our approved processes for child-centered mediation, family mediation, or Court-centered mediation can often be useful. Mediation West works with youth involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, and those needing help in their family relationships. We have programs to work with youth as young as six years old.
In cases where parents are working to develop a parenting plan, we sometimes hear, “I don’t want to involve my child.” The truth is the child is already involved. Our child-centered mediation program allows parents and their mediator to learn from the specially trained child consultant about what is important to their child before they make decisions in their joint session. Children are never asked to make choices or suggestions and children cannot be coached for their sessions because the child mediators are using activities to interact with the child and are looking for patterns that cannot be predicted by a parent.
What happens when the mediation is over?
The mediator will help you put your solutions into writing as full or partial agreements. Reparation agreements in restorative justice cases are typically signed the day of the mediation. In all other cases, agreements are usually sent to parities later so each person can take time to seek legal or tax advice, as mediated agreements can become legally enforceable contracts once signed. Parties or their attorneys may choose to put agreements on file with the Court in some cases. Mediation West does not file agreements with the Court but does provide a Mediation Status Report (MSR) for Court-related cases.
Where do mediation sessions take place?
We conduct mediations in private conference rooms or via a secure virtual platform such as Zoom. The session may be held at the Mediation West secure office or at another neutral and safe location in your community.
How long does mediation take?
The entire process can take several weeks to finish after a case is opened; we suggest moving forward with opening as case as soon as possible. Cases opened right before a court date are difficult to complete, especially if the other person doesn’t schedule right away.
Usually, an Individual Private Session (IPS) lasts one hour or less, and a typical joint session is usually between one and three hours, depending on the type of case and how many issues there are to work on. We will work with you to schedule meetings that fit your needs.
How much does mediation cost?
Mediation West receives grant funds that allows us to bill on a sliding scale based on household size and income (with proper verification in case we get audited by funders). For those choosing not to apply for reduced fees, the regular rate is $92.50 per hour per party for mediation services and $46.25 per hour for case management and document preparation. Parenting plan cases bundle mediation and casework time for a flat rate of $399 per party. Depending on the type of case there may be additional charges for travel at the current IRS rate. Certain types of cases may have costs completely covered by specific grants.
Who attends a mediation session?
Typically, one mediator and the individuals affected by the conflict attend the mediation. Attorney, counselors, or other representatives may also attend, but typically participate in an advisory capacity.
Can my lawyer participate in my mediation?
Lawyers may participate in mediation; however, their role is typically as a consultant or support and go-to for specific legal information. Participants speak and make decisions for themselves.
Am I required to participate in mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary process. However, if mediation is court-ordered, your decision not to participate may result in consequences that affect your court case.
What if I’m afraid of the other party in my mediation?
Mediation West continuously gauges the safety of all participants when proceeding with mediation. Issues such as domestic abuse and sexual abuse will likely disqualify a case from mediation. Mediation may also take place via a caucus method in which parties in high conflict shuttle information through a mediator from one party to another in trying to reach a negotiated solution or agreement.
Do mediators offer advice?
Mediation West mediators do not offer legal advice or other opinions. Instead, mediators allow participants to determine the outcome of their discussion. The focus of mediation or facilitated decision-making is on active problem-solving by all participants.
Are agreements reached in mediation binding in court?
If the participants reach an agreement, the mediator will prepare a written record of the mutually satisfactory solutions. Generally speaking, parties who make a written agreement to do or not to do something have a contract, enforceable in court as any contract may be.
What if we do not reach an agreement in mediation?
Attempting mediation is viewed as a positive step towards resolving a conflict, but if no agreement is reached, typically the court will issue a resolution.
What happens if I want to mediate, but the other party does not?
You can still participate in an Individual Private Session and share your perspective with a mediator. If the other party declines participation, a Mediation Status Report reflecting your participation is sent to the court or referring agency, who often perceive voluntary participation in mediation favorably.
Why use Mediation West?
Mediation West is the mediation center approved by the State Court Administrator’s Office to serve the 15 counties in Western Nebraska. Our center is overseen by an Advisory Council of the Nebraska Supreme Court and our mediators work under guidelines and standards set by the Nebraska Supreme Court’s Office of Dispute Resolution.