Mediation is an informal dispute settlement process run by a trained third party, called a mediator. Mediation is intended to bring two parties together to clear up misunderstandings, find out concerns, and reach a resolution. The process is voluntary, and on a without prejudice basis which means that any and all discussions which take place during the process cannot be used against either party on a later date.
During the mediation, each side will present its view of the issue, and the mediator will work with each party to attempt to work out a settlement. At the end of the process, the mediator can present his or her findings and present a potential solution to the issue. The mediation process, unlike arbitration is non-binding; that is, the mediator does not impose a decision on the parties, but rather attempts to present a solution that is acceptable to both parties.
An arbitrator is also an impartial third party like a mediator, but is more similar to a judge, an arbitrator will impose a decision if the parties cannot reach an agreement on their own. The decision is legally binding, but may be appealed to the courts in certain situations. Arbitration is similar to litigation, but is typically relied on for more narrow and specific issues and is considerably less expensive and faster than court.
At Sawatzky Family Law our lawyers are trained in mediation and are registered family mediators with the Alberta Family Mediation Society.