Mediation has traditionally involved one mediator working with two clients to try to reach solutions. Over time, it has become clear that the flexible nature of mediation can be utilised to benefit a wider range of people, with an even broader range of issues.
Co-mediation is an example of how the process has evolved to meet the demands of the 21st century. It involves clients working together with two mediators to resolve the issues between them. It is often used where clients feel there is a power imbalance in the relationship. This commonly manifests as a concern that they won’t be able to get their point across or they will be talked into something they might regret. The use of two mediators can reassure clients that any imbalance will have a second check. In such cases, generally one mediator focusses on advancing the discussions, with the other acting as a navigator through those points, allowing both parties to continue with productive discussions in a space they will feel safe in.
Co-mediation also offers the advantage of additional perspective. Having two mediators with differing knowledge and insight from different backgrounds, promotes the feeling with the clients that they are being heard and understood.
Mediators do not always have to be from legal backgrounds. It can be helpful to use mediators with different professional skillsets for example mediators with a background in counselling, child therapy or finance. Having the input of a mediator with a different specialism can help clients move past points where they may otherwise have got stuck, achieving more from each session.
This leads into when it can be helpful for third-party, non-mediator experts to attend the joint sessions. This approach is more commonly used in respect of family therapists and coaches, who can support the parties through what can be very difficult conversations, and financial advisers, who can assist with fine-tuning budgets and cash-flow forecasts (amongst other things). Tax advisers and pension actuaries can also sit on the mediations and their expertise deferred to around the appropriate issues. Difficult issues can be dealt with that much more quickly with all the relevant professionals in the room and the parties can focus on what is really important to them.
While there is the inevitable cost of an additional mediator and the attendance of an expert, it can pay dividends for a more seamless and efficient dispute resolution process which hopefully minimises the parties’ costs overall.