Family mediation is ideal for individuals who find the court process difficult or are in a position to have constructive and amicable discussions with the other party to a dispute. Mediation agreements are private and cannot affect subsequent court hearings. These agreements can be made much more flexible than a court order, but will hold no legally binding consequences should they be breached unless they are reinforced in a consent order from the courts. You will still need legal representation to provide advice and help you negotiate as a mediator is not able to provide legal guidance.
You may have also heard of arbitration as a means of settling disputes outside of the court system. Arbitration is similar to mediation but has some key differences. Arbitration is in essence a private court hearing, where a legally trained third party will hear testimony and evidence and come up with a decision that is legally binding upon the parties. It is usually less formal but still not as relaxed as mediation, but is still a powerful alternative to court hearings. Arbitration is usually only appropriate for financial disputes and not appropriate or available for matter such as child custody disputes.
If mediation works for you, it can mean significantly reduced legal costs and help maintain better relationships with the other parties involved. Family mediation is definitely worth considering and often openly encouraged by the courts where appropriate.