Preparing for mediation

Good preparation will help you get the most from mediation. This page lists the steps you can take to prepare for mediation.

Before a mediation, you should:​

    For a handy worksheet that you can complete to help you prepare for mediation, see Preparing for Mediation - Worksheet.

    Learn about the mediation process

    You should find out everything you can about what will happen in the mediation. You can ask the mediator or organisation providing the mediation about the process they follow and how to prepare.

    Check out the website of the mediation service, as many organisations provide written information about their process. Some of the places that provide mediation are listed on the page How to arrange mediation.

    Think about the issues

    Take some time to think about the issues you want to talk about at mediation. Write them down. Think about each issue and why it is important to you.

    Some of the issues may be more important to you than others. Make a note of the issues that are more important to you.

    Think about what the other people involved in the dispute might say are the issues. Will they raise the same issues as you?

    Work out what you want

    Think about what you want to achieve from the mediation. For example, it might be important to you to:

    • get a financial settlement
    • sort out the dispute so you can move on
    • maintain a relationship with the other party
    • get an apology
    • make sure what happened to you does not happen to someone else.

    Think about what the other people involved in your dispute may want. Will they want something different? Are there things you both want?

    Understand your legal rights

    If your dispute involves legal rights and responsibilities, you should get legal advice before mediation so you can make a good decision about any agreement. A lawyer can give you advice about what the law is, how the law applies to your dispute and what a judge might decide if your matter goes to court. A lawyer can also tell you about the court process, including how much time and money going to court might cost.

    Hint icon  Remember, mediation can include discussion of all the issues in your dispute, not just legal rights. At mediation you can make an agreement that is different to what a court might decide.

    Think about the options for ending the dispute

    Once you have worked out the issues in your case, you can think about the options for dealing with each one. Write down everything you can think of.

    Read over each option and think about these issues:

    • Be realistic. Is what you want possible?
    • Think about what the other side may want. This may help you work out where your interests and theirs may be the same.
    • Think about whether what you want would be possible if you had to go to court. For example, you may want the other party to apologise. While this could be something you agree to in mediation, a court will not usually order an apology. You may need legal advice to help you understand what you are likely to get if you went to court.

    It can be a good idea to talk to someone you trust, who is not involved in the dispute. They might come up with some new options for how to resolve the problem.

    Understand your emotions

    You may feel angry, hurt, upset or anxious about the dispute. This is normal and understandable.

    You should spend some time thinking about how you feel about the dispute. Write it down.

    Think about how these feelings may affect you in the mediation. Plan for how you can deal with your emotions if you become upset during the mediation. You could:

    • Ask the mediator for a break
    • Explain to the other side and the mediator what you are feeling
    • Ask to have a support person at the mediation.

    Plan how to communicate

    Spend some time thinking about how best to talk during the mediation.

    Try not to speak angrily or criticise the other party as this may make it harder to reach agreement. Use calm language. So instead of saying:

    "You deliberately made me angry and frustrated".

    You could say:

    "I have felt very angry and frustrated".

    For more information on how to talk and listen during a mediation, see What happens at mediation?  

    Think about whether you need to take someone with you

    In some situations it is possible to take someone with you to mediation. You may be able to:

    • have a support person who does not talk for you but is just there to give you emotional, physical or other support
    • have someone speak for you if you think you might not be able to represent yourself at mediation, for example, if you are very young or elderly or have a disability
    • take a lawyer with you. The lawyer might speak for you or could listen and give you advice during a break from mediation.

    You will usually have to ask your mediation service if you can bring someone with you to mediation. The mediation service will usually ask the other party whether they have any objections to you bringing the person that you want to bring. If you want to bring someone, but the mediation service says you can't, you should get legal advice or consider approaching a different mediation service.

    Find out about interpreters

    If you need an interpreter, talk to your mediation service. Government services like Community Justice Centres (CJC) will usually arrange a free interpreter for you. If you have a private mediator, you may have to pay for an interpreter to attend the mediation.

    Gather documents and information

    You should gather all the documents that are important to your case and the information that supports your case. The mediator will not look at this evidence, but it may be helpful to show the other side so they can understand your position. It will also help you to understand the strengths and weaknesses in your case.

    You should think carefully before you show documents or other evidence to the other party. Although mediation is confidential, if you show evidence to the other party, there is nothing to stop them using this evidence if your matter later goes to court and they can find the evidence in another way. If you are concerned about showing evidence that can weaken your case, you should get legal advice.

    For a handy worksheet to guide you through the steps listed on this page, see Preparing for Mediation - Worksheet.

    For information about what to expect at mediation, see What happens at mediation?

    For a list of things you should take with you to mediation see Checklist: Things to take with you to mediation. ​