Mediation is the use of a neutral third person to assist two or more parties to reach agreements on issues which may be or could become disputes. Typically, in the area of estates, including probate, trust administration, and non-probate transfers, the parties are in disagreement as to the division of assets. In family matters, frequently the issues concern whether the division is equivalent, or should an action be taken by the overseer, the division of income versus ownership and allocation of debt and tax burdens.
During the meetings typically lasting several hours, the mediator, usually an attorney, acts as an advisor, negotiator, educator and rule keeper rather than a representative of the parties. Attorneys may be present during the process or may be consulted by the parties between sessions or at its conclusion.
Mediation offers several distinct advantages. First, it often is the most relaxed and least expensive approach to settlement. Often the time required to reach a settlement is greatly reduced and practical concerns such as scheduling are more easily accomplished. Next, there is an opportunity to air personal concerns and beliefs that would not be given a forum in a formal settlement conference or trial. As emotional plays a major role in a party's perception of fairness this is a vital opportunity to be heard. Finally, the parties exercise the greatest degree of control over the process and its outcome through mediation.