STAGES IN A MEDIATION PROCESS
Mediation is a structured procedure in which the parties discuss their disputes with the objective of resolving their conflicts with the assistance of a trained impartial third person(s) known as the mediator. The parties try to reach a settlement through effective communication and negotiation.
People are often of a view that mediation is a very informal process. But in reality, it is a very structured procedure and the steps are designed with the objective of creating neutrality and awareness among the parties. The procedure aims to resolve the disputes by keeping in mind the interests of the parties involved. The mediation process is not as formal as arbitration or conciliation. It is more of an improvisational process. The mediation process includes the following six steps:
- Convening and planning for mediation- The first step is that the parties must be willing to resort to mediation as a method for resolving their disputes. Once the disputants agree for the same, the parties need to decide the venue, day, and the time at which they are willing to mediate. The mediator helps the parties in deciding these details. The parties must specify the people who will be present, from their side, during the mediation process.
- Opening statements- Once the parties are in the same room, the mediator introduces the parties to one other. He briefs about the mediation process, lays down the ground rules that need to be followed by the parties, and also makes the parties aware as to what should be expected out of the mediation process. The disputants are also given an opportunity to state the facts and issues of the dispute and the consequences that each party faced.
- Joint discussion- The next step in this procedure signifies the importance of communication. In this stage, the parties are allowed to question one another and understand the perspective of the other side. It is often observed that the parties face difficulties in understanding the views of the other party. This is where the mediator steps up. He acts as a translator for the parties. The mediator tries to mediate the problems of one party to another and seeks clarification for the same. This stage also helps the mediator in understanding the dispute in a much better way.
- Caucuses- In this stage, the parties are given the opportunity to have a private conversation with the mediator. The mediator ensures each party that information shared in this session shall remain completely confidential. This assurance encourages the parties to open up to the mediator and share any other important issue relating to the dispute.
- Negotiation- This is the most important stage of mediation. The parties put forth their proposals keeping in mind the interests of the other party. Numerous agreements and disagreements take place at this stage. Since the mediator is aware of the situations of both the parties, he also provides certain settlement options that may be considered by the parties.
- Closure- There can be two outcomes of the negotiation that takes place between the parties. The procedure can be a complete failure or it could be a win-win situation for both parties. If the parties settle upon an agreement, the mediator is required to put down the terms and conditions of the oral agreement in writing. Subsequently, the parties sign the agreement.
The time period for completion of mediation proceedings depends upon the complexity of the situation. In some cases, it might take only a couple of hours, but in certain cases, it might take days, months, or even years to complete the proceedings. The mediator has the authority to stipulate the time for completion of each stage of the procedure, depending upon the facts and circumstances.