In Catalan, we say that ‘by talking, people reach understanding’.
And dialogue is precisely the basis of mediation; an alternative system for resolving any disputes that might arise between members of the general public, companies and organisations in their day-to-day lives.
Through mediation, various different kinds of problems can be solved; for example, separations and divorces, care of the elderly, disputes in family businesses, conflicts with neighbours, citizen coexistence, arguments over rentals, inheritances, economic claims, and so on.
Making use of mediation avoids having to resort to legal action and having to wait for a ruling by our increasingly overburdened court system: ‘Let’s talk about it!’
It is a conflict management system based on dialogue and the search for constructive solutions. The aim is to find a consensus between the parties involved without having to start a judicial process.
- Voluntary (the parties in the dispute are the ones who decide to instigate mediation, and they can also abandon the process whenever they deem it appropriate).
- Confidential (the dialogue that is generated is not disclosed; it remains between the parties and the mediator)
- Impartial (the mediator must seek a balance between the parties without showing bias towards either of them)
- Neutral (the mediator does not impose the final agreements, nor should his/her point of view influence the process).
By intervening actively in resolving the conflict, the parties feel responsible for finding a solution together and, as a result, there are no winners or losers. With this process, it is also more likely that the consensual solution will be implemented than if it is imposed by a third party (such as a judge in a legal process).
In addition, mediation has the benefit of helping to verbalise conflicts and prevent relations from completely breaking down, helping to repair them in the future.
In contrast to the principle of rupture in the legal process, mediation is geared towards fostering social cohesion.
The conflicting parties
This could be two or more people who have a legitimate interest in the disputed issue, whether an individual, a company or an organisation.
They may even be underage if they have enough knowledge. In all cases, children over the age of 12 are permitted to intervene in mediations that concern them. Exceptionally, they can even ask for mediation to be instigated. This request often arises in the case of parental separations.
The instigation of mediation can be requested either by the interested parties or at the behest of a judicial authority (e.g. a judge).
The professional mediator
A third party, unrelated to the conflicting parties, acts as mediator to help the parties find the best solution. Mediators are impartial professionals. There is a Public Register of Mediators where conflicting parties can choose a mediator, or a mediator can be recommended by the Private Law Mediation Centre of Catalonia.
The mediator summons the conflicting parties to various sessions where they can present their points of view and work towards a consensual solution over the course of these sessions. A mediation process lasts around two months, with a maximum of six 90-minute sessions.
Once consensus is reached, it is reflected in a document of agreement signed by all the parties which they undertake to apply.
People who do not have enough money to go to court also have the right to free mediation. To take advantage of this service, you need to submit the relevant form and attach the documents accrediting your lack of financial resources. Processing of free legal assistance to obtain this free mediation is undertaken by the legal guidance services.
If this is not your case, the mediation service has public fees.
To reach a consensus between the conflicting parties, it is necessary to involve professional mediators.
Mediators must have a university degree and certified specialist training through approved courses lasting at least 230 hours.
In Catalonia, the body that supervises mediation professionals is the Private Law Mediation Centre of Catalonia. The courses are given by universities, professional associations or other public law corporations.