Mediation is a way for people to resolve their own disputes without going to court. In mediation, a neutral third party (the mediator) meets with all parties and helps the parties come to a mutually agreeable solution.
Mediators are not judges. Unlike a judge, the mediator’s job is not to make decisions. The mediator’s role is to help the parties communicate, identify their interests and goals, and to brainstorm options to come to a mutually agreed upon settlement.
The Billings Mediation Center uses a type of mediation called facilitative mediation. Facilitative mediation focuses on meeting the interests of each party to create a sustainable agreement. Decisions cannot be imposed on either party and resolution does not happen until both parties agree on a solution.
With rare exceptions, mediations take place face-to-face in one room, which enables both parties to "hear" each other and express themselves. Parties can have lawyers present if they wish.
Mediation is completely confidential and neither party can tell the Judge what was proposed or discussed during mediation. Therefore, if the parties do not come to resolution neither party is disadvantaged if they must eventually take their case before a Judge.
Facilitative Mediation also works for other facets of dispute that would not be brought to a court, or where the parties wish to avoid court proceedings, e.g. neighbor disputes, student-student disputes, sibling disputes, families struggling with how to take care of an elderly parent, parent-child disputes, etc.
Mediators strive to address conflict between parties with the goal of reducing or removing the conflict for the future to the satisfaction of the parties and benefit of everyone affected by the conflict.