Mediation is the attempt to settle a legal dispute through active participation of a third party (mediator) who works to find points of agreement and make those in conflict agree on a fair result. Mediation differs from arbitration in which the third party (arbitrator) acts much like a judge but in an out-of-court less formal setting but does not actively participate in the discussion.
Mediation has become very common in trying to resolve domestic relations disputes (divorce, child custody, visitation), and is often ordered by the judge in such cases. Mediation also has become more frequent in contract and civil damage cases. There are professional mediators, or lawyers who do some mediation for substantial fees, but the financial cost is less than fighting the matter out in court and may achieve early settlement and an end to anxiety. However, mediation does not always result in a settlement.