"You should go to mediation" is a sentence which makes a lot of sense for those who deal regularly with family conflict. But if you haven't done it before what does it mean and how does it work?

What does it mean?

Being told to "go to mediation" suggests that you have a disagreement with someone that you are struggling to solve. A constructive conversation with an open mind may lead to a resolution, but you need to be prepared to mediate in the first place. It is a voluntary process.

Going to mediation means you want to try to resolve the situation. It shouldn't be mistaken for counselling or an attempt at reconciliation. Also, it should not be viewed as a sign of weakness. Often the hardest part is the conversation itself especially where communications have broken down entirely.

How does it work?

Lots of people who agree to go to mediation are apprehensive about the process.

The first thing to say is that you won't immediately be thrown into a meeting together. Each person to the mediation will get the chance first to meet the mediator on their own. This is often called the "intake session". To provide the mediator with some background to your circumstances you may be asked to fill in a written form before you meet.

A joint mediation session is the next step. This session involves being in a meeting with the other person along with the mediator. The mediator is not there to solve your problems, but can help the conversation. You have the chance to find your own solutions. Depending on how things go, the joint mediation session might last around an hour or two.

Mediators will offer to prepare a summary of where the conversation got to and particularly where further independent legal advice is required.

Each mediation will be as individual as the people involved. Some of the benefits include that you retain a degree of control over the process, the pace and the outcome.