FAQ's - Mediation Process

Why are you only accepting private clients on a limited basis?

As of May 2013 Laura L. Noah works for the Circuit Court of Cook County in the Family Mediation Services department.  Due to restrictions regarding potential conflict of interest, Laura L. Noah may no longer provide fees for service for private mediation clients.  However, Laura L. Noah still provides conflict coaching, pro bono divorce mediation (based on income qualifications) and also pro bono mediation for LGBTQ clients who may otherwise have limited access to experienced and knowledgeable mediators. 

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process where individuals who have a dispute meet with a neutral third-party called a mediator to assist them in resolving their conflict/s. Mediation is confidential and voluntary and the individuals in mediation, not the mediator, determine the outcome.

How much will mediation cost?

Check out our page regarding fees.

Why should I go to a mediator when I can work out the problem myself or take the other party to court?

Mediation isn’t for all people or all conflicts. There are instances when attempting to resolve the problem on your own, walking away from the problem, or going in front of a judge or arbitrator may be more appropriate. However, there are many benefits to mediation that these other options do not provide. Sometimes attempting to resolve the conflict on your own can lead to an escalation of the conflict or cause the other person to become entrenched in his or her position. A mediator assists everyone in expressing his or her needs and in designing an agreement that meets those combined needs. There are certainly instances when the legal system is a more appropriate means of resolving a dispute. However, addressing conflicts through the court system tends to be a more lengthy, expensive, and adversarial process. When the parties go before a judge they are provided an opportunity to present their case but have little influence in determining the final outcome. In mediation, the parties in dispute, not the mediator, determine how they would like to resolve the conflict. This allows them the opportunity to maintain a peaceful and non-adversarial relationship beyond mediation that the cutthroat legal environment does not. NMS will discuss with you the appropriateness of mediation in resolving your particular conflict.

Where will mediation take place?

At our office in Oak Park.

Who decides when to end mediation?

The parties decide when to end mediation either by coming up with an agreement or by choosing not to schedule future appointments. They may end mediation at any point but are still held accountable for any costs that have been incurred up to that point. The mediator may also choose to end mediation at any time.

How does mediation differ from therapy or counseling?

Therapy tends to address issues in a person’s past or emotional issues that may be hindering his or her present actions or decisions. While mediation may include some discussion of past events, usually it only addresses those issues pertaining to the conflict. Mediation may be an emotional experience for some people but its focus is primarily on finding a solution to the conflict and moving beyond it in a way that satisfies everyone. Therapy also tends to be a more long-term process than mediation. Individuals in mediation may be in individual, group, family, or couples therapy and still participate in mediation.  If it is appropriate, NMS may suggest therapy instead of or in concurrence with mediation.

We won't mediate cases that aren't appropriate for mediation.  That's a basic tenet of mediator ethics and we take it very seriously.

How long will mediation take?

The length of mediation is up to you and the other individual/s in conflict. Typically the mediator will start by meeting with everyone separately for one hour to assist him/her in determining whether mediation is appropriate and/or to assist him/her in determining the best process for the mediation. If mediation is appropriate, the mediator will schedule an initial session. If the mediation has not resulted in agreement at the end of that period, the individuals in conflict will decide together along with the mediator whether to schedule future appointments. After an agreement has been reached, parties may choose to schedule a future “check-in” appointment to ensure the continued resolution of the conflict.

Will mediation resolve my conflict?

NMS does not guarantee the resolution of your conflict. It is up to you and the other individual/s—with the assistance of the mediator—to determine how you would like to resolve the dispute. If you would prefer having someone else determine the resolution of the conflict for you then you should consider using arbitration or the legal system. 

How is mediation similar and different from arbitration?

Both mediation and arbitration are used as an alternative to litigation.  Both employ a third party.  Both can be binding but typically mediation is non-binding (unless parties take it a step further and file an agreement in court - see below) and arbitration is usually binding.  Arbitrators usually act similarly to a judge and there may be more than one arbitrator employed on a case.  Also, the major difference is that, like a judge, an arbitrator decides the outcome of the dispute unlike in mediation where the parties, not the mediator, decide upon an agreement.

What mediation model do you use? 

Noah Mediation Services uses a facilitative and interest/needs based model of mediation.  This means that the process of mediation is such that the mediator assists parties in identifying and communicating their underlying interests -- rather than focusing on the position they are taking or the validity of that position -- and the needs they are seeking to satisfy.  This is a model that sprung in part from the concepts of principal based negotiation outlined in the classic book Getting to Yes by Fisher and Ury.  The book discusses the importance of focusing on the problem, not the people, and working together to uncover common goals and creating compatible solutions.  The mediator does not make recommendations or provide parties with an evaluation.  The parties are solely responsible for determining the outcome of their dispute.  See also the principles of mediation that NMS follows as outlined on the Mediation Services page.

What's your mediation style? 

Noah Mediation Services mediators use a facilitative approach to mediation as their primary style.  That means that mediators assist the disputants by facilitating a discussion between them and assisting them in their attempt to reach an agreement.  An emphasis is placed on the self-empowerment of the disputants toward resolution of their own conflict.  See also the principles of mediation that NMS follows as outlined on the Mediation Services page.

How does mediation at NMS work? What’s the process?

First contact:

After initial contact (either through email or phone) NMS will provide a free five to ten minute assessment as to your needs and the appropriateness of NMS in addressing those needs. NMS will provide information regarding fees. If mediation seems appropriate, NMS will ask that you have the other individuals to the conflict contact us. Upon being contacted by all individuals to the conflict, NMS will again evaluate the appropriateness of mediation.

Intake (screening):

If mediation seems appropriate, the mediator will meet separately with all individuals in the conflict for one hour gathering history and background information about the individuals and the conflict. NMS will further determine the appropriateness of mediation and the most appropriate mediation process.

Mediation Agreement Form/Contract:

If all individuals agree to mediate, each person will be asked to sign an agreement to mediate form which includes information regarding the mediation process, confidentiality, and fees. NMS will answer any questions or concerns you have at any point in the process.


Once the mediation begins, all individuals will be given an opportunity to speak and the mediator may speak with everyone individually at some point during the mediation. The mediator will assist individuals in clarifying their needs and interests and in better understanding those of the other individuals in conflict.

We won't mediate cases that aren't appropriate for mediation.  That's a basic tenet of mediator ethics and we take it very seriously.

Let's say we reach an agreement in mediation.  Then what happens?  Is it binding?

If you reach an agreement in mediation it will not be legally binding unless you file it in court.  For community disputes oftentimes a verbal or written agreement is sufficient for parties to abide by the terms.  Divorce and custody agreements need to be filed in court either by an attorney or Pro Se (self-representation).  Some attorneys offer unbundled services where they will file the appropriate paperwork while allowing clients to reach agreements on their own or through mediation.  While Noah Mediation Services can assist you in drafting an agreement, there is no circumstance under which we can file any legal paperwork on your behalf.

Do children ever participate in mediation?

In instances of custody and visitation disputes, children between the ages of 4-17 may speak individually with the mediator upon agreement by the mediator and both parents/guardians. The purpose of this conversation between the mediator and the child/ren would be to check in with the child/ren and see how they are doing. The mediator would not put the child/ren in the middle of the conflict or ask them to make any decisions. They would have the same confidentiality with the same exceptions.

Noah Mediation Services also works with families with young people who may be struggling with issues of truancy, running away, dating expectations, curfew, cultural differences, coming out as gay, lesbian, or transgender, etc. The mediator would follow a similar process as already outlined, meeting individually with each member of the family first (children age 16 and younger must be accompanied by an adult who would wait in the reception area) and then determining the best process from there.

See our link for Peer Mediation to learn how young people can develop conflict resolution skills.

Can you explain the differences between court-related mediation, community mediation & private mediation?

Court-related mediation is often mandated by the courts.  In other words, you're required to go to mediation or there could be sanctions.  Court-related mediation also has mediators provided by, and regulated by, the courts, either at no-cost to disputants or at a set fee.  Court-related mediation has become increasingly common for family disputes.  It is also sometimes available for other disputes such as small claims cases or major civil cases and either mandatory or offered on a voluntarily basis.  Many states have also recently been developing court-related mortgage foreclosure mediation.  Court-related mediation programs often limit the topics up for discussion.  For example, the program provided in Cook County for custody and visitation disputes only allows for the mediation of issues pertaining to the children that are not financial or property related.  Mediators are randomly assigned to the case.

Community mediation usually takes place through a non-profit organization.  Some community mediation organizations partner with the courts to offer mediation that has been mandated or provided on a voluntary basis.  Community mediation is usually provided to disputants at no cost or for a small fee.  The mediators are often volunteers that are chosen and regulated by the non-profit organization.  A mediator is assigned randomly to the case.

Private mediators come from a variety of educational backgrounds and experiences.  There are a variety of mediation models that private mediators may employ.  Private mediation is not officially regulated (see "mediator selection" for more information).  In a private mediation setting, discussions are not limited or restricted to particular topics as they may be in court-related mediation.  Private mediators typically charge a fee which is split between the disputants.  Some may also require a deposit.  When choosing private mediation, parties get to decide who they want as their mediator.

Noah Mediation Services
(708) 434-0615