Dispute resolution and mediationWhat is Mediation?

Two parties who cannot reach an agreeable resolution may choose to engage in the process of mediation.  Mediation provides a way to resolve legal issues without requiring a court appearance.

The process itself is a very simple one. The first step is for the two parties to both agree on a mediator. It is often a former judge or lawyer but does not necessarily need to be. It just needs to be a party who is impartial and has an understanding of the law.

The mediator will first attempt to find common ground that the two parties can agree upon. Then they will consider the key issues so that they can determine where it is likely that a compromise can be reached.  Mediation is sort of like a mini-trial where both parties present their own evidence and testimonies which support their own positions.

Characteristics of Mediation

Mediation is a non-binding legal procedure which is controlled by the parties involved. This is how mediation differs from arbitration and decisions passed down by a judge, which ARE legally binding.  Those involved in mediation do not have to accept an outcome that they do not like. They are not even required to see the process of mediation through to the end; they are free to withdraw from the process at any time.  It is typical that the parties involved will continue to participate in the process until it has been completed.

The Benefits of Mediation

  1. Convenience and Cost – Mediation is usually a much faster process than battling a matter out in court for months or even years. This also means it is much less expensive than litigation or other forms of settling disputes.  The quicker process allows for the involved parties to settle a dispute and then get back to their lives or their business.
  2. Customizable and Implementable Agreements – Both parties can work to create a tailor-made settlement for the particular situation that they are dealing with, which does not even have to be a legal matter. Sometimes mediation agreements cover various procedural issues or even psychological issues that are not easily determined through other legal means.  The steps for carrying out decisions made by mediation can also be outlined, and finer details discussed. By design, this usually increases the likelihood that all parties will participate with and comply with the terms as they are presented in the settlement.
  3. Confidentiality – The mediation process is completely confidential. Matters can be shared with the public, but only as a choice of the parties involved. In a courtroom setting, all records are a matter of public record. When parties do not wish for their information to be made public for any reason, they may choose to participate in the process of mediation to find a suitable resolution.
  4. Preservation of Relationships – Mediation can reach a settlement that addresses the interests and needs of all parties concerned which may help preserve long-term relationships. There is no “blame” in this type of non-judgmental resolution. The setting allows for a constructive way to resolve issues by each party being able to contribute and add input.

Reasons to Choose Mediation

Mediation can be beneficial in many different types of cases.  Some of the most common reasons mediation is pursued include no fault divorce matters, domestic disputes and sometimes custody issues. Mediation is not available for criminal matters but occasionally some non-violent criminal cases may benefit from the process of mediation.

However, remember that claims heard in a mediation setting do not necessarily have to concern a legal matter. For instance you would not sue your neighbor over the brightness of their outdoor lighting options, but mediation might be useful to help find a resolution to the problem.

Mediation cases may be between family members, business partners, neighbors, landlords and tenants, or management and labor unions. In some areas mediation is mandatory if it involves certain issues such as disagreements with neighbors or child custody issues.  Even if a settlement is not reached through mediation, it helps the involved parties clearly define all the issues and facts involved in the dispute. This can be preparatory for court proceedings or arbitration should they be needed.

All of these benefits, and court-mandated mediation, are making alternative dispute resolution more and more popular.  If you are confronted with a mediation or alternative dispute resolution situation and would like to discuss it with an experienced dispute and trial attorney, contact Larry Sass of the Law Offices of Laurence J. Sass.