distressed-couple-in-counselingMediation is any process designed to help people resolve disputes, and can be informal—such as when a friend offers to talk to both members of a couple about a relationship problem—or highly structured, such as when divorcing couples attend binding mediation as part of a court action.

What is Mediation?

The process of mediation is designed to reduce conflict, particularly in contentious situations. Mediators are typically disinterested third parties, although friends or family may act as mediators in disputes. Some people are trained in the art of mediation and are hired to help people resolve disputes. Mediators may have a background in psychology, social work, law or criminal justice, and most states establish specific training programs mediators must meet to be certified or licensed.

Types of Mediation

Informal mediation occurs any time one person attempts to help two or more people resolve a dispute. This process can be extremely helpful because it provides an outside perspective. In some cases, however, it can be harmful, such as when one member of a couple thinks the mediator is unfair or when the couple takes their anger out on the mediator.

Formal mediation occurs when two or more parties agree to attend mediation with a trained mediator. This is usually in a legal context, such as when one party has filed or threatened to file a lawsuit against another. Mediation is usually confidential, but the agreements reached by two parties in mediation are often binding. In arbitration, a variation on mediation, the arbitrator sometimes has the authority to make a decision about the outcome of the cause after talking to each party.

Mediation is increasingly popular in divorce cases because it helps to minimize conflict, prevents the waste of judicial resources, and can help couples come to mutual agreements that are tolerable to both parties.


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  2. Welcome. (n.d.). Success Consulting Mediation. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-11-2015

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