Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an umbrella term for a varied collection of processes, that have arisen over the last twenty years, and are seen as an alternative to judicial determination in resolving disputes between parties. The main types of ADR processes are arbitration, conciliation, mediation and negotiation although the term is most often associated with the process of mediation.

Mediation is a confidential process in which the participants, with the assistance of an independent dispute resolution practitioner (the mediator), identify the issues in dispute, develop options for resolution of the dispute, consider and test alternatives within the available options, and endeavour to reach an agreement satisfactory to all parties. Mediation is a process that promotes self-determination in that it enhances the role of the participants by allowing them a relatively high degree of control over the process and outcomes suitable to their needs. Mediation is often depicted as giving rise to resolutions that are of a "win win" nature rather than those of a "win lose" nature commonly associated with judicial determination.

A mediator has no advisory or determinative role in relation to the content of the dispute or the outcome of its resolution. The role of the mediator, who may have no particular experience or expertise in the subject area, is to advise on or determine the process of mediation whereby resolution is attempted. In essence, the mediator is regarded as a neutral third party having a facilitative role in the mediation process by focusing participants on their own interests, promoting understanding, seeking creative solutions to issues and thereby enabling participants to reach their own agreements.

Mediation offers many benefits over the more formal processes of arbitration or judicial determination including the time needed to resolve a dispute which translates directly and indirectly into the cost of achieving an outcome. Benefits also exist in the areas of flexibility as the parties have more control over the outcome from a mediation which most likely translates into satisfaction with the result. Finally, where confidentiality and privacy are important the privacy offered by mediation enables parties to preserve these rights.