In Catalan we say that “by speaking, people understand”.
And it is precisely dialogue that is the basis of mediation, an alternative system for resolving conflicts that may arise among citizens, companies and organisations in day to day life.
Through mediation it is possible to resolve problems of a varying nature, for example, separations and divorces, care of the elderly, disputes in family businesses, conflicts with neighbours, civil coexistence, discussions on rent payments, inheritance, financial claims, etc.
Making use of mediation avoids the need to resort to judicial charges and wait for a decision from an overstretched court: ‘Let’s talk about it!’.
It is a conflict management system based on dialogue and the search for constructive solutions. The aim is find a solution that is agreed upon by all parties concerned, without the need to start legal proceedings.
- Voluntary (it is the conflicting parties who decide to begin mediation and can also stop the process when they see fit).
- Confidential(the dialogue generated is not disclosed, and is confidential between the parties and the mediator)
- Impartial (the mediator should seek balance between the parties, without preference for either)
- Neutral (the mediator does not impose the final agreement, nor does their opinion have any influence during the process)
By being actively involved in resolving the conflict, the parties feel responsible for finding the solution together and, consequently, there are no winners or losers. In this way, it is more likely that the agreed solution is put into practice than when the decision is imposed by a third party (as would be the case of a judge, in a legal process).
Furthermore, mediation has the advantage that it helps to verbalise conflicts and makes sure that relations are not totally broken and can be fully repaired again in the future.
Unlike the clean break principle of the legal route, mediation is oriented to favour social cohesion.
The conflicting parties
Two or more people who have a legitimate interest in the matter in dispute, whether physical or legal entities (companies or organisations).
They may be minors, if they have sufficient knowledge. And in any case, those aged over twelve may be involved in mediations that affect them. In exceptional cases, they may even request that mediation proceedings are started. This request often occurs in cases of parental separation.
The persons concern may request the start of mediation proceedings or it may be instructed by a legal authority (the judge).
The professional mediator
A third person outside of the conflicting parties, the mediator, helps the parties to find the best solution. Mediators are impartial professionals. There is a Public register of mediators from which conflicting persons can choose their mediator or the Catalonia Centre for Mediation in Private Law can suggest a mediator.
The mediator summons the persons concerned to several sessions so that they can present their views and seek a solution, jointly and throughout the sessions. A mediation process lasts around two months, with a maximum of six sessions of about 90 minutes.
Once a consensus is reached, it is expressed in an agreement document signed by all parties which they undertake to apply.
People who do not have enough money to go to court are entitled to free mediation. To make use of this service, you must submit the corresponding form and attach documentation certifying the lack of resources. Those responsible for arranging free legal aid for obtaining free mediation are the legal advice service.
If this is not the case, the mediation service is subject to public tariffs.
To reach a consensus among the conflicting persons, mediation professionals are required.
Mediators must have a university degree and have passed specialised training which is achieved with two accredited courses, of a minimum duration of 230 hours.
In Catalonia, the body which oversees mediation professionals is the Catalonia Centre for Mediation in Private Law. The courses are taught at university teaching centres or professional associations or other public corporations.