dispute resolution

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Mediators are trained to help resolve many different types of disputes. Their work might include issues in the workplace, between neighbours and marital or relationship breakdowns.

Mediation involves an independent, impartial person helping two sides of a dispute reach a solution that is acceptable to both parties. Each side might be made up of one or more individuals or a group and the mediator can talk to each side separately or both together.

The whole process is private and confidential and participation is typically voluntary. The mediator acts as a neutral third party and facilitates rather than directs the process.

Mediators are neutral and will not take sides, so cannot give advice to either side. They will usually recommend you obtain legal advice alongside the mediation process.

How do I access mediation?

You may contact a mediator directly or your solicitor may refer you.

Mediation services differ depending on where you live:

For those who live in England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice website has details of mediation providers in your area.

Your council or housing association may also provide a mediation service

Some charities also provide a mediation service.

What do mediators do?

Mediators do not make judgments or determine outcomes. Their role is to:

• ask questions which help to uncover underlying problems
• help both parties understand the issues
• assist in clarifying the options for resolving the difference or dispute

Mediators use various techniques to open or improve constructive discussion between the two sides of the dispute, aiming to help both parties reach an agreement.

Reaching an agreement

Without mediation, disputes of all kinds (including business, divorce, child custody and workplace conflicts) can often last months, or even years, without a resolution being found.

Mediation can be very effective and it is not uncommon for a full agreement to be reached in a matter of hours. The speed of the process can surprise or overwhelm a participant who is not properly prepared to mediate.

It is important that all participants should fully understand the efficient nature of mediation so agreements reached are fully considered.

You may find it reassuring to have your solicitor advising you during the mediation process.

Is a mediation agreement legally binding?

This is a common question about mediation agreements. The simple answer is, “Yes. A mediated agreement is legally binding”.

In some cases such as matrimonial or other family law disputes, agreements reached through mediation may not be legally binding or enforceable but where both parties agree, legally binding agreements can be drawn up.

See our article, Mediation for family law disputes for further, more specific advice on how mediation can help in circumstances such as separation or divorce.

Specifically, a mediated agreement is one that all dispute stake-holders voluntarily agree to. Generally, agreements reached in mediation and resulting in a signed written document (Memorandum of Understanding) are as legally binding as any other written contract.

When you participate in mediation you are creating a contract that defines how you wish to jointly resolve the issues in dispute. It is important for each party in the dispute to fully participate in the resolution process and to bring all the issues in dispute to the table.

In addition, neither side should agree to anything without fully considering what they are agreeing to and the long-term ramifications of the final negotiation.

For those disputes not yet the subject of court proceedings, the written mediated agreement is usually considered to be a written contract and as such is legally binding.

Depending on the nature of the agreement and the dispute, if there is a breach of the contract or mediated resolution, the other party can persue a claim at court – as in any legal contract.

Taking these things into consideration, it’s easy to see why having your solicitor on hand during mediation is very much recommended.

Further help and support

Our solicitors can offer all the support and advice you need to help you resolve your legal issues.

We can give you advice on which approach would be most appropriate for your individual circumstances and help you find a trained mediator if required.

Please call us on 0121 705 7571.

For issues relating to:

Family / Matrimonial disputes please ask for:
Kathryn Ferris (kathrynferris@wallacerobinson.co.uk) or Sharn Nijjar (sharnnijjar@wallacerobinson.co.uk)

Employment and other Civil Litigation matters please ask for:
Daniel Zakis (danielzakis@wallacerobinson.co.uk)

Further reading:

6 key benefits of mediation (Dispute Resolution)

This article is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute technical, financial, legal advice or any other type of professional advice and is no substitute for specific advice based on your individual circumstances. We do not accept responsibility or liability for any actions taken based on the information in this article. For more information, please click here.