Mediation Turns on 3 Basic Principles

Party self-determination.

Mediator impartiality.

Mediator neutrality.

Sounds simple, right? Actually how these three principles are applied by a mediator can affect the outcome of a mediation. Does self-determination mean that a party has the right to accept a terrible settlement without any intervention by the mediator? Mediator impartiality means, at a minimum, that the mediator doesn’t have any conflicts or prior undisclosed relationships with any of the parties. But what about bias, conscious or unconscious, and how that affects the course of the mediation, especially when it’s a high-conflict dispute and the mediator needs to take an active role in managing the conflict. Mediator neutrality means that the mediator is not invested in seeing any particular outcome to the dispute. Does this mean that the mediator withholds critical information that she believes might sway one party or the other in demanding certain outcomes? Three basic principles govern mediation generally but the way they are put into effect by the mediator is a constant ethical challenge for mediators.

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