Mediation is the process in which a “third party neutral,” the mediator, attempts to help parties reach resolution of their disputes. “Third party neutral” means that the mediator is not a party to the dispute or an attorney for any party to the dispute and is neutral–that is not an advocate for either party’s position.

Arbitration is the process by which the parties agree to allow a trained arbitrator (rather than a judge) decide their dispute. The decision then goes to a judge in the applicable court for ratification–the process by which the arbitrator’s decision becomes a court order–but there are few bases upon which the court can refuse to ratify the arbitrator’s decision.

A major distinction between mediation and arbitration is that the mediator has no ability to make the parties reach an agreement against their will while an arbitrator, much like a judge, can render an enforceable decision that the parties do not agree with but that still is binding upon them.

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