Frequently Asked Questions
The following are some of the questions frequently asked about mediation:
“I haven’t talked to the other person about mediation yet; how does that work?”
When you request mediation, you will be asked to provide contact information for the other party. An email will be sent to them explaining that you have requested mediation. Then a trained mediator assigned to your case will first talk to you, then call the other person to discuss the benefits of mediation and find out if they are willing to meet in a neutral and confidential setting at a mutually agreed time to work out a solution agreeable to both parties.
“What happens if the other person refuses to mediate?”
Mediations are voluntary, so it is possible that the other person will refuse to mediate. However, when people understand the benefits of working out their own solution to the issue and learn that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain by mediating, many will agree to mediate.
“How much time will the mediation take?”
We schedule three hours for a mediation because it’s important that sufficient time is available for both parties to hear and be heard in a relaxed setting, and we have learned that most mediations will settle within that amount of time.
“How can I be assured that the discussion will be confidential?”
All discussions with mediators are confidential. In addition, everyone in a mediation is required to sign a Confidentiality Acknowledgment before the mediation can begin. This enables the parties to speak freely without fear that the information will go outside the program. Agreements are also confidential, unless both parties agree that the agreement itself (but not anything else discussed in mediation) is admissible in court.
“Can I get legal advice from the Palo Alto Mediation Program?”
The mediators are impartial and do not give advice or make recommendations, suggestions, or decisions of any kind. The PAMP case manager is able to counsel callers about their rights and responsibilities and help them decide if mediation is the best approach. If legal advice is required, the case manager can make a referral to legal services.
“What happens if we don’t reach an agreement in the mediation?”
If the dispute is not resolved in mediation, you have waived no rights and still have the option of going to court if you choose. Additionally, the PAMP case manager may be able to assist you with other resource referrals that could help you resolve your issue.
“Can I have my lawyer represent me in mediation?”
Mediation is intended to be a negotiation directly between the parties. If the other party agrees, you may bring your lawyer to mediation, but we recommend that they be there only to advise you.
“I feel like I’m being discriminated against by my landlord. Can you help me?”
The PAMP case manager can connect you with Project Sentinel’s Fair Housing Center; they can help determine if there is discrimination and work with you to get it resolved.
“My neighbor is being rude and nasty, and I have a hard time talking with him. What are my options?”
Your mediator will discuss with you the options available including conciliation, remote mediation via videoconferencing, or face-to-face mediation. In our experience, if parties talk face to face, they are more open to working out a solution. Guidelines ensure everyone’s safety and comfort. Mediation can help neighbors work through their issues and even turn the relationship around.
“How do I know the other side will live up to an agreement if we reach one?"
The PAMP case manager does follow up with the parties when an agreement is reached. More than 90% of parties comply with the agreement. Because the parties themselves have come up with the solution, there is a stronger incentive to implement it. A high compliance rate is one of the benefits of a mediated solution versus a court-imposed solution.
“Why should I bother with mediation when I think I have a strong case in court?”
Mediation avoids the time and cost of the court system. Once you get a trial date, and after waiting for hours, you will have a very limited time to present your case and the court will listen only to points it considers “relevant.” In mediation you will be able to discuss all of your concerns and have more control over the outcome. If you do not reach an agreement, you can still take your case to court.
"How can I become a mediator with PAMP?”
Please see "How Do I Become a Mediator?" for more information.