Negotiation: Parties speak directly to one another trying to reach agreement between themselves without a third party.

Arbitration: Parties present testimony and offer evidence to an impartial third party who is charged with making a decision about the dispute.  Arbitration can be binding or nonbinding depending upon the setting.  Arbitration is less formal than court proceedings and usually private.

Mediation: An impartial third party facilitates a conversation between parties in a dispute.  The goal in mediation is to seek understanding between the parties in place of seeking blame or fault.  Parties might or might not reach a solution.  Usually, mediation is private and nonbinding.  Agreements in court-connected mediation can become binding depending upon the jurisdiction of the court. 

Mediation/Arbitration (Med/Arb): The role of the impartial third party is to act as a mediator in a dispute.  If the parties do not reach an agreement, the third party takes on the role of arbitrator and makes a decision in the dispute.

Litigation: Parties in a dispute file lawsuits in court and are represented by attorneys who negotiate for the disputants.  Unresolved disputes are decided by a third party (judge).  Court records are usually public.


Mediation is a confidential, non-adversarial and voluntary process through which a mediator hears a dispute between two or more individuals and facilitates the discussions and decisions that may lead to an agreement.  The mediator remains neutral and does not decide who is right or wrong; rather, the mediator helps foster a discussion about issues that are important to both parties. The actual decisions reached are up to the parties in dispute.

MMC relies on a dedicated core of volunteer mediators who have received training in civil and/or family mediation. Many use mediation in their legal, human resources, or social services professions. However, a mediator is not there to provide legal advice or other expertise.


  • It is informal.
  • It is confidential.
  • It saves participants time and money.
  • It emphasizes problem-solving.
  • It emphasizes self-determination.
  • It allows participants to contribute more directly to the outcome.

Mediation is a means by which people involved in dispute are helped to respectfully and peacefully resolve their differences. Through mediation, the parties retain control of the decision-making process.  Going to court, on the other hand, is often lengthy and unnecessarily expensive.  Once the dispute reaches the courts, parties often lose control of the decision-making process.

In some cases, participation in mediation may be ordered by the court. For mediation to be most successful, the parties should be willing to participate in good faith to reach a settlement. This does not mean a positive outcome will be achieved in every situation. MMC mediators work with all parties until an agreement is reached or until it becomes apparent that an agreement will not be reached.  Often, parties in a mediation experience improved relationships, even if an agreement is not reached.

Attempting mediation does not block access to the court system.

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