Over the past several years, mediation has become an increasingly popular method of resolving differences outside of court. Instead of passing judgment and imposing a decision, a mediator facilitates communication between the parties and helps them reach a resolution they can both accept.
Mediation can be used to settle a diverse range of disputes, including those related to family or business relationships, employment, tenancy, property damage, and more.
This post will explore the top five types of mediation, examine specific examples of common disputes in each type, and help you to discover the advantages mediation provides.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Family Mediation
- Workplace Mediation
- Contracts Mediation
- Small Claims Mediation
- Property Dispute Mediation
- How Does the Mediation Process Work?
- How Does Mediation Compare to Arbitration and Litigation?
This is one of the best-known kinds of mediation. Disputes involving spouses, parents, or children tend to be highly emotionally charged. Having a neutral third party guide the discussion can be an effective way to settle these types of disagreements while preserving important relationships.
Common issues addressed in family mediation include:
Division of assets—When a relationship breaks down and the partners separate, who gets the house, car, antiques, etc.?
Spousal or child support—How much will be paid, and how will that be done?
A mediator can help divorcing couples come to terms without going to court
Child custody and access—Who will the children live with? How will custody be shared, and how will parental visits work?
Parenting—How will decisions be made regarding issues like religion, education, or health?
Temporary care arrangements—If child protection services officials remove a child from a parent’s care, how much contact will the parent have? What needs to happen before the child can be returned?
Elder care—Should an older adult give up driving or move into assisted living? Should a power of attorney be established?
Family business succession—Who will assume control of the business when the founders retire? Should it be sold?
Mediation can also be effective at resolving disagreements between co-workers, or between managers and employees. The goal is to ease tension and resentment and help the parties improve their working relationship.
Workplace mediation can improve staff morale, reduce turnover, and avoid time-consuming formal grievance proceedings.
So what kind of disputes can be mediated in a workplace setting? Here are some common examples:
Personality clashes—Friction can develop when two colleagues have very different personalities. For instance, if a manager is outgoing and gregarious while her employee is quiet and serious, the manager might chastise the employee for being cold and unfriendly to customers. In contrast, the employee might complain that the manager is a bully.
Differences in work styles—What a supervisor sees as offering helpful suggestions might be interpreted by the employee as an attempt to micromanage. Or a conflict could arise when one worker is focused on getting a project done quickly while another team member feels it’s more important to get input from other people.
Cultural misunderstandings—People of different nationalities or cultures may have different norms for workplace behaviour. For example, if the new boss comes from a culture in which frequent feedback is not expected, he might inadvertently alienate team members who are accustomed to more encouragement and praise.
Mediation can help defuse tensions among team members
If one party to a contract does not fulfill their obligations or interprets the terms differently, it may be beneficial to call in an impartial facilitator to resolve the conflict.
Mediation allows the details of the dispute to remain confidential and the parties involved to retain control of the process, which is why contract disputes are often best resolved through mediation rather than litigation. In fact, in some areas of Ontario (including Toronto and Ottawa), certain non-family civil cases must go to mediation before trial.
A skilled mediator can help work through issues related to:
Real estate contracts—Was the property not inspected before the purchaser took possession? Did the buyer fail to close escrow by the noted deadline? Was the buyer not able to close the deal because of dramatic changes in the market?
Commercial lease agreements—The contract terms might be unclear about who can use the property or whether the tenant or the landlord is responsible for maintenance and repairs.
Employment contracts—Perhaps an employee claims he was wrongfully dismissed, but the employer claims the employee’s actions repudiated his employment contract.
Construction contracts—A case could arise in which a homeowner hires a contractor to renovate a bathroom, but the contractor takes longer to finish the job than what was agreed. Another example is if the contractor finishes the job but then claims he wasn’t paid for the work.
Disputes over contracts are often best handled through mediation
SMALL CLAIMS MEDIATION
Small claims cases are about recovering money owed or seeking a monetary payment for damages. In Ontario, Small Claims Court deals with disputes in which the total amount involved is $35,000 or less.
There is no mandatory mediation for small claims. However, using a mediator can be a much quicker way to get these conflicts resolved, particularly given the backlog of small claims cases that built up while the courts were closed during the pandemic.
Mediators who handle small claims matters typically work through disputes such as:
Personal injury—The injuries could stem from a variety of sources, such as a car accident, a dog bite, a fall on a wet store floor, or a defective product.
Unpaid rent—If a tenant leaves without paying or moves out before the lease ends, mediation can help the tenant and landlord work out a mutually acceptable solution.
Bad cheques—A business receives a cheque as payment for services, but there aren’t sufficient funds available and the cheque bounces.
Wrongful termination—An employee who was dismissed without cause believes they are entitled to more severance pay than they actually received.
Property damage—Maybe the blasting from a nearby construction site caused cracks in a house’s foundation, or a professional housecleaner used an acidic product that discoloured a home’s natural stone tiles.
PROPERTY DISPUTE MEDIATION
Property disputes can involve homeowners, neighbours, tenants, landlords, building developers, municipality officials, and others. This type of mediation can deal with everything from chronic annoyances to serious legal issues.
Mediation can help opposing sides find common ground and maintain an amicable relationship, which is particularly important in conflicts among neighbours.
Here are a few examples of property-related disputes that can be mediated:
Boundary problems—Maybe one neighbour’s fence is encroaching on another neighbour’s land because the two homeowners don’t agree on where the property line is. Or maybe an old diseased tree straddles the property line, but one neighbour refuses to let it be removed.
Land use—Perhaps a developer wants to build a new condo tower on the site of an old warehouse or rezone a piece of property to replace a single house with two homes.
Nuisance—Does someone in a nearby household practise their trumpet well into the night? Does someone’s dog constantly bark and irritate another family? Does the smell from one house’s compost heap drift into a neighbour’s kitchen?
Mediation can be a good way to resolve neighbourhood conflicts
HOW DOES THE MEDIATION PROCESS WORK?
No matter what type of dispute is being mediated, the process is typically the same.
Before a mediation session can take place, the mediator meets with each party separately to understand the nature of the dispute and the dynamics that are in play. This is especially critical in family disputes, but it can apply to any situation where there might be a significant power imbalance. The mediator must ensure that both sides are able to fully participate in the process.
Once discussions begin, the mediator encourages each side to air their perspective, asks questions to get to the root of the issue, and helps the parties explore possible solutions. They don’t assign blame or impose decisions. Instead, they use mediation techniques to focus on keeping the discussion going in an organized and respectful way so that the parties involved can come to a resolution on their own.
HOW DOES MEDIATION COMPARE TO ARBITRATION AND LITIGATION?
Mediation is typically less expensive, less time-consuming, and more flexible than other forms of dispute resolution.
Mediation discussions are collaborative and confidential, which affords privacy and helps to ensure the relationship between the parties doesn’t become overly strained or damaged. On the other hand, court proceedings are open to the public and are adversarial by nature.
Also, in litigation and arbitration, legally binding settlements are imposed by a third party. However, a mediated dispute is only settled if both sides agree. Thus, mediation allows the participants to maintain control and offers the greatest potential for win-win outcomes.
WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF MEDIATION?
Have a look at the Mediation and Dispute Resolution Certificate offered by Kompass Professional Development. The program runs for 12 weeks and is delivered entirely online, with weekly interactive sessions for group discussion and mediation role-playing practice.
Students learn about different types of mediation and effective techniques for mediating conflicts within families, workplaces, and communities.
Click below to get complete program details or chat live with a knowledgeable advisor.