Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution, in which the parties attend meetings with an independent, impartial and qualified third party. That person is able to guide the process and assist the parties in narrowing the issues in dispute and negotiating toward a solution.
It is a comparatively cheap and informal process, depending upon whether the parties wish to involve lawyers – it is usually necessary for the parties to have legal advice in order to shape the discussions and understand what position they can reasonably take. However, it is usual for lawyers not to be present at the mediation itself, which will often involve the two parties and the mediator discussing matters in the same room. There is no formal timetable or procedure: it is a flexible process which can be shaped to the needs of the parties and their particular circumstances.
Mediation can take place before or in parallel to the court process. However, it is now compulsory, save in exceptional circumstances, for the parties to attend a mediation session before issuing proceedings. If you are able to reach an agreement during mediation, you can then seek a binding court order in the terms you have agreed.