This is usually the first point of contact between the mediator and the parties. Each parties is met with, separately, and given a chance to tell their side and state their desired outcome.
The mediator then brings both parties together in a joint meeting, with the aim of having a future-focused, balanced discussion. The joint session is usually structured with four stages:
1. Opening/Introduction to the Joint Session
The mediator introduces the session by stating the stages of the process, the ground rules, their role as the mediator, and the confidential nature of the mediation. Then, each party is given time to explain their position, uninterrupted. It may be allowed that each party is then given a chance to respond to the other's position. Finally, the mediator must summarise the main points of conflict from each party and, in conjunction with the parties, set an agenda for the mediation.
The mediator then facilitates a discussion of potential resolutions, considering the effects of each suggested resolution on each party.
The mediator then facilitates a negotiation between parties. If a resolution is agreed upon, then the mediator must move to the next stage.
Once a resolution is chosen by both parties, the mediator must draft an agreement, including any necessary next steps to be taken by the parties. This is important for the mediator to ensure that each issue within the conflict is considered, and that the settlement is clear and precise to avoid any further disputes. Whilst this is normally only morally binding, parties have the option to make the settlement legally binding by both signing the agreement as a contract.
If there is no settlement, other dispute resolution techniques may be used to resolve the conflict. However, any information discussed during the mediation is strictly confidential and cannot be used in further proceedings. The parties can also attempt additional mediation.