Mediation and arbitration are two separate and distinctly different strategies to resolve a dispute. The role of a mediator is to provide a forum in which two parties can discuss and negotiate a settlement between themselves. The mediator does not provide a decision on the merits of the case. At the end of mediation if there is an agreement, then the agreement is prepared in writing and signed by the parties and their attorneys. The important aspect of mediation agreement which is often overlooked is that the terms of the agreement must be specific, with timelines and other criteria such that the mediation agreement can be enforced by either party. The role of an arbitrator is to listen to each sides case and to make a decision on the merits of the case. The parties must present evidence in the form of documents and witnesses to support their case. When the arbitrator makes the decision, it may be non-binding, which means the party who does not like the decision may still go to court; or, it may be binding, which means the decision is final and the right to appeal is limited.
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