Dan Westerburg Article


Frequently Asked Questions about Mediation

What is mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential way for people to resolve their disagreements. During mediation, people meet at a safe and neutral place to discuss their options for effectively resolving their problem. One or two mediators guide the process to help keep communication respectful.

Why should I try mediation?

Mediation can be an effective first step in trying to resolve a conflict. It saves time, money, and energy that might otherwise be spent tangled in a frustrating legal process. In mediation, people in conflict decide for themselves the solution that is right for them. Mediation helps people clear the air so they can preserve their relationship, which otherwise might be damaged if they went to court.

What situations can be mediated?

  • Neighbor issues: property-line disputes, animal noise, shared walls, trees
  • Landlord/tenant problems: money owed, payment plans, deposits, refunds, back rent
  • Family conflicts: decision making about care of aging parents or other family members, communicating with teens
  • Real estate disputes: earnest money, non-disclosure of damage
  • Small claims: property damage, money owed
  • Business issues: partner disagreements, client complaints
  • Employee conflicts: office issues, coworkers who don’t get along
  • Personal injury claims: auto accidents, premises liability
  • Domestic relations: divorce and child custody
  • Group decision making: neighborhood associations, community organizations, schools, clubs, boards of directors

What does a typical mediation look like?

Participants meet with one or two mediators, who explain the process and ask them to agree to some guidelines for respectful communication. Each participant will have an opportunity to share his or her side of the story, what the participant wants, and what he or she is willing to do to help solve the problem. The mediator(s) will listen and ask questions, making sure that the participants are clearly hearing and understanding each other. If the participants reach an agreement, the mediator(s) will help ensure that it is fair and specific.

Who are the mediators?

Mediators are a diverse group trained to be unbiased and neutral. They help people communicate effectively but do not take sides or review evidence.

Is mediation legally binding?

Participants create a written agreement and each receives a copy. Some agreements reached in mediations involving money, personal injury claims, business disputes, domestic relations, or real estate can be legally binding. Mediation agreements reached in other less formal disputes (such as animal noise complaints) may not be enforcible in court. Nonetheless, statics show that most of these informal agreements  remain in force long after they were entered into by the participants. 

How long does a mediation take?

Most mediations sessions are scheduled for two to four hours.

Who/what should I bring to the mediation?

Participants bring only themselves, though they may bring a spouse or partner who is affected by the problem as well. You may bring information such as logs or photos that you can use to help the other participant understand your point of view. Other people who might be helpful to the mediation may attend, but only with prior approval of both participants. Attorneys sometimes attend mediations arising from formal disputes. Where the disputes is more informal the participants normally represent themselves.

How much does a mediation cost?

It depends on the organization doing the mediation and the type of dispute between the parties. Private mediators generally charge an hourly fee. Mediation services offered through the court system or a community mediation service are often available for free or at a nominal charge.

I’m having a conflict with someone in another state. Can mediation be done via phone?

Yes, mediation services often can be provided via conference call or web-based video conferencing platforms.

Will the mediator discuss my case with anyone else (attorneys, law enforcement, case workers, etc.)?

The entire mediation process is protected by law as confidential. Except for unusual circumstances such as actual or threatened violence during the mediation, or evidence of abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult, mediators are prohibited by law from discussing your case with anyone without your permission. Mediators and their case files may not be subpoenaed without a court order. 


Contributing Attorney: Dan Westerburg is one of many volunteer mediators at The Center for Community Dialogue a program of Our Family Services in Tucson.


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