A conflict mediator works with individuals and groups to help settle disputes. Depending on this person's training and specialization, mediators may work to resolve legal disputes, consumer issues, inter-organizational conflicts, or family matters. Some conflict mediators work closely with the court system and may be able to facilitate legally binding agreements between parties seeking mediation. In other cases, mediators simply work with people who are having difficulty working out conflicts on their own and want the help of a trained, neutral third-party.
Mediators often specialize in specific types of disputes. Common specializations include: Divorce and custody mediation; consumer/business alternative dispute resolution or binding arbitration; landlord-tenant mediation; as well as conflict mediation in various sorts of organizations, such as churches, businesses, and medical practices.
While there no restrictions on or licensing requirements for the practice of mediation in the United States, many mediators voluntarily obtain specific training and may also have work or educational credentials in the specific area of specialization. For example, a conflict mediator who works with divorcing couples may have a degree in the law or in a mental health field. Mediators are often relied upon to help settle legal conflicts outside the courtroom, such as divorce, custody, insurance claims and lawsuits. The hope is that the mediator can reduce the demands on the court system, give the parties more control over the dispute, and resolve the issue in a way that respects the needs and interests of everyone involved.
The work of a conflict mediator can vary according to his or her specialization as well as the specifics of each of his cases. In many cases, judges will order a divorcing couple or squabbling business partners into mediation, regardless of the wishes of the individuals involved.
In these cases, the mediator not only must spend a significant amount of time keeping all parties calm, but he or she will be expected to work toward a tangible resolution in the form of a custody agreement or division of assets. On the other hand, if conflict mediator is working with clients who have voluntarily entered mediation, the goal of may be to facilitate communication between the parties and keep the the dialogue on track while the parties work through their issues. If the mediation process results in the decision to end a partnership, marriage, or for an organization to cease or divide operations, the mediator can help the parties experience resolve unfinished business and experience closure.