Arbitration and mediation are often used interchangeably, although they are different legal concepts. Even though both have the same goal, which is to arrive at a fair conclusion to a matter, there are significant differences in how the two processes work.

The primary difference between arbitration and mediation is that in an arbitration process, the arbitrator studies the evidence presented by the parties and makes a decision based on that evidence. Generally, an arbitration process is similar to what happens in a court of law, only that it is less formal. In the case of mediation, the process involves negotiations between the parties involved in a dispute, with the help of a neutral party. This neutral party is referred to as a mediator. A resolution can only be found after the two opposing sides agree.

Understanding the Mediation Process

Generally, the role of mediators is not to give orders or make resolves. Rather, they help parties in conflict to arrive at a resolution by facilitating communications, gathering important information, and widening options. In most cases, the process begins with the parties having an informal meeting with the mediator to give out their views concerning the dispute. It is at this point that a mediator gets to understand the dispute. Afterward, the mediator meets with the parties separately. The mediator engages the parties in a discussion and explores feasible ways through which an agreement can be found. Since the parties have different opinions and viewpoints, the mediator might have to rotate between the sides a couple of times.

The mediation process has to fully concentrate on the parties involved in a conflict. Making decisions is not the mediator’s job. Instead, he or she listens and only gives possible directions that the process can take. Understanding each party is vital for the mediator so that a mutually beneficial resolution can be found. As long as the parties are willing to move towards a solution that is viable for both, it is possible for a mediation process to be successful. Once a mediator succeeds in bringing the two parties together, a written agreement ensues to show commitment from both sides.

The reason why many people prefer mediation to arbitration is that the parties have a part to play in the resolution. Their input is so important that a mediator has to value each and every contribution from both sides. It’s essential to highlight that mediation is majorly used in situations where the parties in dispute have a relationship they would like to protect. For example, disputes between family members can come to a mutually beneficial solution using a mediation process.

Understanding the Arbitration Process

On the contrary, arbitration involves a more formal process compared to mediation. A senior lawyer can serve as an arbitrator. An arbitration process allows each party to present their cases before an arbitrator. Just like it is in a normal court proceeding, an arbitrator can question witnesses from each party. Unlike in mediation, arbitration processes are not centered on out-of-court settlements between parties. It involves active listening of the evidence that each party presents with the intention of making a decision based on what is brought forward. The main idea here is not negotiations but decision-making.

Again, conversely to mediation, which must bring the parties involved to a common agreement, arbitrators have the authority to give out a legally binding verdict. While mediators are facilitators, arbitrators are decision-makers. The decision of an arbitrator is final, and the parties involved have to honor it. Whether it seems unfair to either of the parties or not, the final decision by an arbitrator is what counts. An important point to mention is that the decision by an arbitrator has to be anchored in law. It is notable to point out that arbitration applies best in complicated disputes where the parties involved would like a third party to help them find a fair solution.

Arbitration vs Mediation: Conclusion

Whenever people find themselves in situations of conflict, it is best for them to consider whether to choose arbitration or mediation as a way of conflict resolution. Depending on one’s needs, you can decide which one of the two will be better. If you are in favor of a more formal process and outcome, arbitration will be the better option. However, you should choose mediation if you would like a process that will accommodate the ideas and viewpoints of each party involved.