Questions to Ask Mediators

Mediation is a process designed to give people more choices about how they resolve their disputes.  The following questions are useful in deciding whether to use mediation, and if so, which mediator(s).  If you call an organization with a panel of mediators, you will probably talk with an intake worker rather than the person who would be your mediator and you should adapt the questions accordingly.

  1. How do you describe your goals in mediation?  (Examples include reaching agreement, compromise, satisfaction with the fairness of the process and results, meeting each participant’s needs, empowering participants.)
  2. How many meetings do you normally use and how long are the meetings?
  3. Can you schedule meetings to accommodate my needs?  (Such as nights, weekends, longer meetings, irregular schedule.)
  4. Is you process confidential and impartial?  (Specifically, will you disclose information to outsiders, testify in court, or represent one participant against another participant?)
  5. Do you ever meet separately with individual participants?  (This practice is sometimes called a “private caucus.”)
  6. Do you deal with the underlying conflicts between participants in addition to the specific problems the participants come in with?
  7. Do you work alone or in a team with another mediator?
  8. What is your policy on use of individual attorneys to attend mediations or advise participants between sessions or review draft agreements?
  9. What training and experience have you had in mediation and the kinds of issues involved in my case?
  10.  How much does your service cost?
  11. What is and is not included in your services?  (For example, will you draft the agreement?)

There are no “right” answers to these questions because each situation is different.  In making choices about mediation, after talking with a mediator, ask yourself whether you felt that s/he has the necessary skills and experience, that s/he listened sympathetically and understood you, and whether you would feel comfortable working with him or her.

© John Lande 1984. Permission to copy granted if copyright notice is retained for credit.