There are many steps that are taken during the mediation process, before successfully reaching a settlement. Below, Afsana tells you her best practices.
Opening remarks. During my mediation, I will seat the parties to my left and to my right. I will begin with some opening remarks, set some ground rules, and an agenda for the duration of the mediation. I will ensure you fully understand the mediation process, and are comfortable to begin.
Opening statements. Each party will have an opportunity to tell me the facts of their case and the reason(s) for the dispute. This stage is better known as the “opening statements”. I will listen to you and the other party or parties and make sure I have the correct facts about the case, whilst noting down the areas that are of particular concern to you. This stage will also give you an opportunity to outline what you are hoping to achieve from the mediation. Opening statements are optional and you can opt out if you would like. However, from experience, I have found that this stage helps you to feel comfortable and more involved in the process, whilst also giving you the opportunity to have your say.
Issues and Interests. Now that I know more about your case, I will determine the matters upon which both parties agree (the common grounds). This will help me work out what the issues are and what interest each party has to resolve. These discussions can help you to identify a reasonable settlement.
Options. During this stage, I will collaborate with both sides to brainstorm some options each party considers fit for a fair resolution. I encourage all the parties to actively take part in this process and negotiate some possible resolutions. This stage can be carried out in the presence of all the parties in a joint session or separately in caucus. If you choose to caucus, I will meet with each party in private rooms to discuss the matters or offers you would like to put forward to the other side. You may or may not wish to accept the offer/s, however, it may provide ideas and solutions on which to build a counter-offer. During each stage of this process, I will help you to negotiate a settlement that is right for you. The more open you remain to making and receiving offers, the better your chances are of reaching a settlement.
Settlement and Closure. There may be a few settlement options on the table for the parties to consider. You may collaborate with each party to work out the terms and details that suit you best. Alternatively, you may have just one offer that you are happy with. Either way, you have now reached the stage where you are happy with the options or offers that have been presented to you and vice versa. Once a settlement is reached, you will have an opportunity to draft, revise and agree on the terms of the settlement (or minutes of settlement) and decide the best way to reach the terms.