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What Is The Difference Between Arbitration And Mediation?

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Before we discuss the difference between arbitration and mediation, it pays to know that both are alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods used to settle disputes outside the court system. However, there are key differences between the two processes.

Key Differences:

  • In arbitration, a neutral third party, known as an arbitrator, makes a final and binding decision on the dispute. In mediation, the mediator facilitates communication between the parties and helps them reach a mutually agreeable solution. The mediator does not have the authority to decide on their behalf.
  • Arbitration is a more formal process than mediation. It involves hearings where each party presents their case, similar to the court system. Mediation is a more informal process, typically involving a roundtable discussion facilitated by the mediator.
  • Both arbitration and mediation are confidential processes. This means that the details of the dispute and any information exchanged during the process cannot be disclosed to anyone outside of the parties involved.
  • Mediation is generally less expensive than arbitration. The cost of arbitration will depend on the dispute’s complexity and the arbitrator’s experience.
  • Arbitration decisions are final and binding. There is no right to appeal except in limited circumstances. Mediation agreements are not binding but can be enforceable through the courts if one party breaches the agreement.

When Should I Choose Arbitration Over Mediation, And Vice Versa?

Choosing between arbitration and mediation depends on the specific circumstances of your case and what you aim to achieve. Here’s a comparison to help you decide:


Arbitration is a more formal process than mediation, resembling a court proceeding but with less rigidity. In this setting, an arbitrator listens to both sides and makes a binding decision. 

This means that the parties involved have less control over the outcome, as the arbitrator decides based on the evidence and arguments presented. While arbitration is usually confidential, it offers a slightly lower degree of confidentiality than mediation. In terms of time and cost, arbitration is often quicker and less expensive than going through court proceedings. 

However, mediation can be more costly and time-consuming. Arbitration is most suitable for the parties requiring a definitive decision and are prepared to accept the arbitrator’s ruling. It’s commonly used in business disputes, employment issues, and cases where contracts specifically mandate arbitration.


Mediation, on the other hand, is characterised by its less formal and more flexible nature. It’s a facilitated negotiation process where the mediator doesn’t make decisions but helps the parties involved find a mutually acceptable solution. 

This approach allows parties to retain more control over the outcome, as the process is collaborative and aims for a resolution that benefits everyone. Mediation is highly confidential, and the discussions during the process typically cannot be used in court later. 

Regarding time and cost, mediation is generally faster and less expensive than arbitration and litigation. It is ideal for disputes where maintaining relationships is essential, such as in family or community conflicts. 

Mediation is also beneficial when parties seek creative solutions and want more control over the resolution process.

Also read: Mediation with a Narcissist: What You Should Be Prepared Of

Considerations for Choice

  1. Nature of the Dispute: Arbitration might be more appropriate if the dispute requires a legal decision or interpretation of the law. For interpersonal or community disputes, mediation is often better.
  2. Desired Outcome: If you want a legally binding decision, choose arbitration. If you prefer a more collaborative and controlled outcome, mediation is better.
  3. Resources: Consider the cost and time you are willing to invest. Mediation is usually less costly and time-consuming.
  4. Relationships: Mediation is often preferable if maintaining a positive relationship with the other party is important.
  5. Confidentiality: Both are confidential, but mediation offers more privacy.
  6. Legal Framework: Some contracts or legal frameworks may mandate or favor one method.

In summary, choose arbitration for a more formal, decisive approach and mediation for a collaborative, controlled, and relationship-focused resolution. It’s often beneficial to consult with a legal professional to make the best choice for your specific situation.

What Are The Confidentiality Rules For Arbitration And Mediation?

The confidentiality rules for arbitration and mediation are governed by specific legislation and common law principles. Here’s an overview:

Arbitration Confidentiality in Australia

  • Legislative Framework: The confidentiality of arbitration proceedings in Australia is generally governed by the Commercial Arbitration Acts, which apply in each state and territory. These Acts are based on the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).
  • Scope of Confidentiality: The Acts typically provide that arbitration proceedings are confidential. This means that the existence of the arbitration, any evidence or materials used in the arbitration, and the awards made are to be kept confidential.
  • Exceptions: There are exceptions to confidentiality in certain situations. These may include when disclosure is necessary to implement or enforce an award, for legal or regulatory reasons, or if the parties have agreed to the disclosure.

Mediation Confidentiality in Australia

  • Legislative and Common Law: Mediation confidentiality must be more codified than arbitration. Common law principles primarily govern it, though some statutes and court rules provide guidelines.
  • Privilege: Communications made during mediation are typically considered ‘privileged.’ This means they cannot be used as evidence in court if the mediation fails and the dispute proceeds to litigation.
  • Mediator’s Role: The mediator is also bound by confidentiality. They cannot disclose what was said or admitted during the mediation in any subsequent legal proceedings except in specific circumstances, like allegations of child abuse or threats of harm.
  • Agreements: Parties often enter into a mediation agreement before commencing the process, including confidentiality clauses. This agreement binds the parties, and sometimes third parties, to confidentiality regarding the mediation discussions and any settlement terms.

General Considerations

  • Contractual Agreements: In arbitration and mediation, parties may have additional contractual agreements outlining specific confidentiality rules.
  • Public Policy Exceptions: In both methods, there may be public policy exceptions to confidentiality, such as when disclosure is necessary to prevent harm or if required by law.

What Is The Difference Between Arbitration And Mediation? 

Need help understanding the difference between arbitration and mediation. Let Justice Family Lawyers guide you through these complex processes with expertise and care. Our team ensures you make informed decisions for the best outcomes. Contact us now for tailored advice and support in your legal journey.

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