Sometimes the terms “mediation” and “arbitration” are confused. They sound similar and are both forms of “alternative dispute resolution” (sometimes referred to as “ADR”). But they are really quite different.
Mediation is a facilitated settlement negotiation. The parties gather in separate conference rooms and a neutral third party (usually a retired judge or very seasoned attorney) shuttles between the parties helping to facilitate the negotiation of a settlement.
No testimony is taken at the mediation and no evidence is introduced. The proceeding is informal. The mediator does not make any rulings and usually does not formally “evaluate” the strengths and weaknesses of the parties’ claims and defenses.
The parties’ are entirely in charge of their own destinies. They settle only if they want to settle. They do not have to settle and the mediator has no authority to determine a result.
If the parties do settle a written settlement agreement is prepared at the mediation. The agreement is signed and may be enforced by the Court. If the parties settle the case is taken off the Court’s calendar and there is no trial (it is unnecessary).