Mediation is a process whereby people can meet to attempt to reach an agreement on issues that they hold in common.
The meeting includes a neutral third party, the Mediator, who assists the parties in their discussions. Mediations are generally not binding, but are conducted in a number of different ways.
For example, in Delaware Family Court, if the parties cannot reach an agreement as to a child support amount, the Mediator makes a recommendation to a Court Commissioner for a temporary child support Order to last the parties until their hearing. This recommendation is made to the Commissioner outside of the presence of the parties and without the parties being permitted to present their position to the Commissioner.
This example is an unusual application of mediation, and does not reflect the normal, non-binding, confidential process which is the hallmark of mediation.
A more traditional example of mediation is provided by Delaware Superior Court.
Parties can agree to meet with a neutral attorney or retired judge in a settlement mediation that is entirely confidential.The mediator attempts to explore with the parties whether there is room for a middle-ground settlement, in that particular case.
During the course of this mediation, the mediator may meet with each party individually, and then with both parties together. This can be a very effective tool for the parties to use in evaluating their case and bringing closure to it.
Parties can also hire attorneys to mediate a dispute, instead of incurring the expense of going to court.