Mediation is a process in which an impartial third party, a mediator, facilitates the resolution of a dispute by promoting voluntary agreement (or “self-determination”) by the parties to the dispute.
A mediator facilitates communications, promotes understanding, focuses the parties on their interests, and seeks creative problem solving to enable the parties to reach their own agreement. These standards help give meaning to this definition of mediation.
I. Self-Determination: A Mediator Shall Recognize that Mediation is Based on the Principle of Self-Determination by the Parties.
Self-determination is the fundamental principle of mediation. It requires that the mediation process rely upon the ability of the parties to reach a voluntary, non-coerced agreement. Any party may withdraw from mediation at any time, it is often times in the parties’ best interest to be determined to stay until the end of the process.
Many times true progress or tangible results emerge at the end of the process or when deadlines and are imposed.
The mediator may provide information about the process, raise issues, and help the parties to explore options. The primary role of the mediator is to facilitate a voluntary resolution of a dispute. Parties shall be given the opportunity to consider all proposed options. Under our ‘Best Ideas Win’ Mediation Program, our mediators are committed to participating in the process when the parties are unable to develop ones that will resolved the dispute on their own.
A mediator cannot personally ensure that each party has made a fully informed choice to reach a particular agreement, but it is good practice for the mediator to make the parties aware of all sides of a dispute and possible consequences of proceeding forward, the importance of consulting other professionals, where appropriate, to help them to make informed decisions.
II. Impartiality: A Mediator Shall Conduct the Mediation in an Impartial Manner. The concept of mediator impartiality is central to the mediation process. A mediator shall mediate only those matters in which she or he can remain impartial and evenhanded. If at any time the mediator is unable to conduct the process in an impartial manner, the mediator is obligated to withdraw.
A mediator shall avoid conduct that gives the appearance of partiality toward one of the parties. The quality of the mediation process is enhanced when the parties have confidence in the impartiality of the mediator. Parties need to understand the position of the other side from a neutral perspective. A mediator should guard against partiality or prejudice based on the parties’ personal characteristics, background, or behavior at the mediation.
III. Conflicts of Interest: A Mediator shall Disclose all Actual and Potential Conflicts of Interest Reasonably Known to the Mediator. After Disclosure, the Mediator shall Decline to Mediate unless all Parties Choose to Retain the Mediator. The Need to Protect Against Conflicts of Interest also Governs Conduct that Occurs During and After the Mediation.
A conflict of interest is a dealing or relationship that might create an impression of possible bias. The basic approach to questions of conflict of interest is consistent with the concept of self-determination. The mediator has a responsibility to disclose all actual and potential conflicts that are reasonably known to the mediator and could reasonably be seen as raising a question about impartiality. If all parties agree to mediate after being informed of conflicts, the mediator may proceed with the mediation. If, however, the conflict of interest casts serious doubt on the integrity of the process, the mediator shall decline to proceed.
A mediator must avoid the appearance of conflict of interest both during and after the mediation. Without the consent of all parties, a mediator shall not subsequently establish a professional relationship with one of the parties in a related matter, or in an unrelated matter under circumstances which would raise legitimate questions about the integrity of the mediation process.
A mediator shall avoid conflicts of interest in recommending the services of other professionals. A mediator may reference professional referral services or associations which maintain rosters of qualified professionals.
Potential conflicts of interest may arise between administrators of mediation programs and mediators. There may be strong pressures on the mediator to settle a particular case or cases. The mediator’s commitment must be to the parties and the process. Pressure from outside of the mediation process should never influence the mediator to coerce parties to settle.
IV. Competence: A Mediator shall Mediate Only When the Mediator has the Necessary Qualifications to Satisfy the Reasonable Expectations of the Parties.
Any person may be selected as a mediator, provided that the parties are satisfied with the mediator’s qualifications. Training and experience in mediation, however, are often necessary for effective mediation. A person who offers herself or himself as available to serve as a mediator gives parties and the public the expectation that she or he has the competency to mediate effectively. In court-connected or other forms of mandated mediation, it is essential that mediators assigned to the parties have the requisite training and experience.
Mediators should have information available for the parties regarding their relevant training, education, and experience.
The requirements for appearing on a list of mediators must be made public and available to interested persons.
When mediators are appointed by a court or institution, the appointing agency shall make reasonable efforts to ensure that each mediator is qualified for the particular mediation.
V. Confidentiality: A Mediator shall Maintain the Reasonable Expectations of the Parties with Regard to Confidentiality.
The reasonable expectations of the parties with regard to confidentiality shall be met by the mediator. The parties’ expectations of confidentiality depend on the circumstances of the mediation and any agreements they may make. The mediator shall not disclose any matter that a party expects to be confidential unless given permission by all parties or unless required by law or other public policy.
The parties may make their own rules with respect to confidentiality, or the accepted practice of an individual mediator or institution may dictate a particular set of expectations. Since the parties’ expectations regarding confidentiality are important, the mediator should discuss these expectations with the parties.
If the mediator holds private sessions with a party, the nature of these sessions with regard to confidentiality should be discussed prior to undertaking such sessions.
In order to protect the integrity of the mediation, a mediator should avoid communicating information about how the parties acted in the mediation process, the merits of the case, or settlement offers. The mediator may report, if required, whether parties appeared at a scheduled mediation.
Where the parties have agreed that all or a portion of the information disclosed during a mediation is confidential, the parties’ agreement should be respected by the mediator.
Confidentiality should not be construed to limit or prohibit the effective monitoring, research, or evaluation of mediation programs by responsible persons. Under appropriate circumstances, researchers may be permitted to obtain access to statistical data and, with the permission of the parties, to individual case files, observations of live mediations, and interviews with participants.
VI. Quality of the Process: A Mediator shall Conduct the Mediation Fairly, Diligently, and in a Manner Consistent with the Principle of Self-Determination by the Parties.
A mediator shall work to ensure a quality process and to encourage mutual respect among the parties. A quality process requires a commitment by the mediator to diligence and procedural fairness. There should be adequate opportunity for each party in the mediation to participate in the discussions. The parties decide when and under what conditions they will reach an agreement or terminate a mediation.
A mediator may agree to mediate only when he or she is prepared to commit the attention essential to an effective mediation.
Mediators should only accept cases when they can satisfy the reasonable expectations of the parties concerning the timing of the process. A mediator should not allow a mediation to be unduly delayed by the parties or their representatives.
The presence or absence of persons at a mediation depends on the agreement of the parties and the mediator. The parties and mediator may agree that others may be excluded from particular sessions or from the entire mediation process.
The primary purpose of a mediator is to facilitate the parties’ voluntary agreement. This role differs substantially from other professional-client relationships. Mixing the role of a mediator and the role of a professional advising a client is problematic, and mediators must strive to distinguish between the roles. A mediator should, therefore, refrain from providing professional advice. Where appropriate, a mediator should recommend that parties seek outside professional advice, or consider resolving their dispute through arbitration, counseling, neutral evaluation, or other processes. A mediator who undertakes, at the request of the parties, an additional dispute resolution role in the same matter assumes increased responsibilities and obligations that may be governed by the standards of other processes.
A mediator shall withdraw from a mediation when incapable of serving or when unable to remain impartial.
A mediator shall withdraw from a mediation or postpone a session if the mediation is being used to further illegal conduct, or if a party is unable to participate due to drug, alcohol, or other physical or mental incapacity.
Mediators should not permit their behavior in the mediation process to be guided by a desire for a high settlement rate.
VII. Advertising and Solicitation: A Mediator shall be Truthful in Advertising and Solicitation for Mediation
Advertising or any other communication with the public concerning services offered or regarding the education, training, and expertise of the mediator shall be truthful. Mediators shall refrain from promises and guarantees of results.
It is imperative that communication with the public educate and instill confidence in the process.
In an advertisement or other communication to the public, a mediator may make reference to meeting state, national, or private organization qualifications only if the entity referred to has a procedure for qualifying mediators and the mediator has been duly granted the requisite status.
VIII. Fees: A Mediator shall fully Disclose and Explain the Basis of Compensation, Fees, and Charges to the Parties.
The parties should be provided sufficient information about fees at the outset of a mediation to determine if they wish to retain the services of a mediator. If a mediator charges fees, the fees shall be reasonable, considering among other things, the mediation service, the type and complexity of the matter, the expertise of the mediator, the time required, and the rates customary in the community. The better practice in reaching an understanding about fees is to set down the arrangements in a written agreement.
A mediator who withdraws from a mediation should return any unearned fee to the parties.
A mediator should not enter into a fee agreement which is contingent upon the result of the mediation or amount of the settlement.
Co-mediators who share a fee should hold to standards of reasonableness in determining the allocation of fees.
A mediator should not accept a fee for referral of a matter to another mediator or to any other person.
IX. Obligations to the Mediation Process: Mediators have a Duty to Improve the Practice of Mediation.
Mediators are regarded as knowledgeable in the process of mediation. They have an obligation to use their knowledge to help educate the public about mediation; to make mediation accessible to those who would like to use it; to correct abuses; and to improve their professional skills and abilities.
Copies of the Uniform Mediation Act, Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators are available from our offices. This form was developed by the American Arbitration Association ands the American Bar Association.