People deal with conflict most every day. Many of them turn to litigation and the use of the legal system to resolve disputes. But the court system costs too much, takes too much time and involves uncertainty, loss of privacy and an adversarial win-lose mentality. Frequently, the outcomes from the judicial system do not work effectively for most people especially when the dispute is between people who are in long lasting relationships like family members, business colleagues and community members. That’s why more and more people are turning to mediation as an alternative way to solve problems. Mediation is a dispute resolution process where the mediator acts as a neutral third party and facilitates a discussion between the disputants. In mediation, the process is tailored to the needs of the parties and the issues being discussed. The mediator helps the parties identify the issues and frames the dispute as a mutual problem to be solved. With the help of the mediator, the parties analyze information, evaluate options, and explore mutually acceptable solutions with a focus on what they will do in the future rather than what has happened in the past. There are numerous benefits to using mediation to resolve conflict: *The parties decide the outcome and customize their agreement to fit their needs; *The discussions during mediation are confidential; and *The parties control the schedule, and mediation is more cost effective than litigation Many types of cases are appropriate for mediation, including: *Separation and Divorce (support, custody and division of property); * Business Disputes (contract, landlord/tenant and small claims); * Family Matters (elder care, estate matters, and parenting issues); * HOA and Community Issues (HOA disputes, land use decisions and strategic planning) Next time you find yourself embroiled in conflict, consider mediation as a constructive way to solve your problems. Susan Buckley is a Virginia Supreme Court certified mediator and owns Center Mark Mediation, LLC in Ashburn, Virginia. She also serves on the Executive Board of the Virginia Mediation Network.