Mediation Resource Center
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a dispute resolution process involving a neutral third-party (the mediator) that is an alternative to going to court or continuing to fight in a conflict situation. It is a consensual process, meaning both parties must voluntarily agree to mediate the dispute. One exception to this is court-ordered mediation, where a dispute has already been taken to court and the judge or magistrate orders the parties to attempt to mediate the dispute before s/he will rule on the case.
What Does the Mediator Do?
The mediator is a trained neutral party that facilitates the mediation process. Mediators are not judges. Their role is to help the individuals or groups involved in the conflict to isolate their issues, list possible solutions to each of those issues and then choose the mutually acceptable solutions to comprise a final agreement.
Why Shouldn't We Just Take This to Court?
Going to court is an involved and costly process. Courts usually have many procedural requirements that must be fulfilled before a hearing can be set. There is usually a filing fee at the very least. Many times it is necessary to hire an attorney to help you with your case and to navigate the legal system. The process can be lengthy and complicated and take a large financial and emotional toll on all parties involved. Our legal system is adversarial, so one party usually prevails over the other. Often people report that even after they have prevailed in court, they don't feel as if they have actually "won."
Mediation allows for both parties to meet their needs. Because the outcome in mediation is driven by the parties themselves, the final agreement can be as unique and creative as the situation requires. Also, some situations can't be fully addressed in court. For instance, in a neighborhood dispute, one party might have been charged with a municipal violation for disrupting the peace with a loud party. The court will give an outcome as to that charge, but will not set any parameters as to how to avoid disrupting the neighbors' peace in the future, or how to solve other problems, such as parking or general hostility in the neighborhood. In a mediation, everyone involved in the dispute can be present and have a chance to state their take on the situation. After the issues have been isolated, the group can come up with creative solutions that solve their problems. The final agreement is put in writing and is binding on all the parties who sign it, unless otherwise specified in the agreement.
How is a Final Agreement Enforced?
Studies have shown that there is a higher compliance rate with mediation agreements than there is with court orders. If one party to an agreement feels that another party is not complying with the provisions that they agreed to, they can request another mediation to clarify or change the terms. If the parties do end up litigating their dispute, courts usually treat a mediated agreement as binding and enforceable.
What if We Can't Reach an Agreement?
About 90 percent of all mediated cases are resolved. Sometimes it takes more than one session to work with all the issues and reach an agreement. If mediation does not result in an agreement, you can continue the conflict, choose to leave things unresolved, or go to court. Courts usually look favorably on mediation, even if the attempt doesn't end with a resolution. Colorado Revised Statute § 13-22-307 protects the confidentiality of information disclosed in mediations unless all parties consent, with the exception of a few extreme circumstances.
What Kinds of Disputes Can Be Mediated?
Mediation can utilized in almost any dispute, such as international conflict, labor disputes, or child custody disagreements. Our service at the City of Boulder Community Mediation Service is for city of Boulder residents or for conflicts related to property located in the city. We provide mediations for conflicts between landlords and tenants, roommates, neighbors, City of Boulder Departments, private nonprofits, community groups, parent-teen, teen-teen, and restorative justice conflicts.
When and Where Do Mediation Sessions Take Place?
We can schedule a two-hour session during the day, or in the evening, any day of the week. We can accommodate most any time that works for all the parties involved. The sessions take place at the City of Boulder's Children, Youth and Family Building at 2160 Spruce St., near downtown Boulder, next door to the Spruce Pool.
How Much Does Mediation Cost?
Our service is subsidized with city taxes, so each party pays only $30 for each two-hour session. This fee can be waived if someone is unable to pay. Sometimes one party offers to pay the other side's fee as an incentive to bring them to mediation.
How Do I Prepare for Mediation?
Here are some suggestions of what to prepare and bring with you to a mediation:
A willingness to listen
Parties cannot be listening if they are too busy planning what they are going to say next. You never know what you're going to hear, so don't assume you know what the other person will say.
An open mind
Bring creative ideas to the mediation table, and be open to the ideas of others. Be ready to put the past in the past and to find ways to form effective solutions for long-lasting neighborhood peace. Think: anything is possible!
A summary and chronology of events
For the sake of time, it is recommended that parties condense their thoughts and experiences on paper beforehand, so that they can be as direct and succinct as possible during the mediation session. A timeline of events is very useful.
Any necessary paperwork, pictures, etc.
Although the outcomes of mediation sessions do not depend on physical evidence (mediators are not judges or arbitrators), it is sometimes handy for parties to have a visual reference when dealing with certain types of disputes (such as property maintenance or land lord-tenant conflicts). This includes leases and other agreements parties may have entered into prior to mediation. Also bring any relevant records, such as police reports, land surveys, and/or judicial materials such as court orders.
Other affected parties
Mediation agreements affect the lives of others in countless ways. For this reason, it is suggested that all parties potentially impacted by the agreement be included in the mediation session (such as property managers, other neighbors, etc.). Additionally, those who are in positions to make decisions, such as Homeowner's Association boards, should be asked to participate. Note: ALL mediation participants need to be pre-screened before attending any scheduled meetings. No ‘surprise' participants are permitted to attend meetings, for the sake of fairness to all involved.
A positive attitude
You get out of mediation what you put into it. Coming to the mediation table with a hopeless attitude ("We're never going to find a solution") will as easily produce a negative outcome as thinking "We're going to try our best to make this situation better" will bring about positive results. Despite past feelings and experiences, your attitude is your choice and is under your control.
We also have some ideas on what is not needed at a mediation session:
Lawyers are generally not permitted in mediation sessions. Interim agreements can be shown to counsel for approval prior to signing, if necessary. The goal of mediation is to empower parties to resolve their own conflicts together, rather than relying on litigators to advocate for one side or the other.
Only those directly affected by the dispute, or those who are in positions to make decisions for a larger group, are invited to participate in the Community Mediation process. This rule is strictly enforced, so if there is someone you'd like to bring to mediation, make sure the mediation staff knows about it and has given approval prior to the mediation session.
Stick to issues directly related to the dispute at hand. If there are multiple issues to discuss, prioritize them so that each can be dealt with in a timely manner.
Questionable motives to participate
If your desire is anything other than to amicably work out a solution to your neighborhood problem, such as compiling information for a pending lawsuit, please do not use the Community Mediation Service to uncover such information. Mediation sessions are considered confidential, and any information collected in session cannot be used in court.
Please do not bring inappropriate physical evidence to the mediation session.
Mediation is reserved for adults and youth involved. Child care is not provided by the City of Boulder and other arrangements will need to be made prior to parties arriving at a mediation session. Likewise, pets are not permitted in city buildings unless they are service animals. The city prefers parties not leave animals in closed automobiles, or chain dogs up outside the building for animal and human safety reasons.
What Happens in a Mediation Session?
There are several ways to conduct a mediation. We use a co-mediation model, so there will be two mediators present to assist you in the resolution of your dispute.
At the start of the mediation, your mediators will introduce themselves and briefly go over the mediation process. They will make sure everyone understands that the process is voluntary and confidential and establish some ground rules for respectful communication. They will explain how individual caucuses work, where the mediators meet privately with each party if necessary to help reach an agreement.
All parties in attendance will then be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement. Both sides will then be given a chance to tell their side of the story uninterrupted. The mediators will then start a list of issues that have become apparent as both sides stated their position. After a comprehensive list of issues and/or needs is established, the group will set an agenda as to the order these issues will be addressed in.
The mediators will facilitate a group brainstorming to come up with possible solutions to each issue. From these lists, the group will evaluate which ideas would best meet their needs. Mediators will have individual caucuses if necessary. The mutually acceptable solutions will be written up in an agreement which all the parties will sign and receive a copy of.
How Do I Get the Other Party to Mediation with Me?
There are several ways to bring up the option of mediation to a party with whom you are having a dispute. How you choose to do this might depend on several factors such as the level of hostility between you and them, whether or not the other party is an individual or a company, or your comfort with explaining the mediation process.
You might call or approach them in person and ask if they are familiar with mediation and if they would be willing to try it.
You can refer them to our website, or print off a hard copy of this list of questions to give them.
You can also have them call our office and one of our staff will explain the process and answer their questions.
If you prefer, you may write them a letter asking them to mediate. Again, refer them to our website or ask them to call us directly.
A third option is to have our office call the other party and offer our services.
After an initial phone intake with you, we would call the other party and explain that we have been contacted by you regarding your dispute and that you would like to use our services to resolve your conflict. We explain the process and its benefits and clarify that it is a voluntary process. If they agree to mediate, we start the scheduling process. We do not divulge the details of what you have disclosed to us about the dispute. We do tell them who contacted us to initiate mediation and give a general reference to the dispute (e.g. return of a security deposit, dog barking, payment of a utility bill, etc.).