If you feel you have exhausted all of your resources in trying to negotiate the settlement of your dispute with another party, you may find mediation to be the most efficient and painless way to solve your problems. Mediation is a quick, fair, private, and relatively inexpensive way to handle a civil dispute. Mediation is a type of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) where disputing parties of a lawsuit collaborate with a third party or mediator to settle the dispute. The overall goal of a mediation is to bypass the expense and time involved with further litigation by settling the lawsuit early in the process.
The mediator assists disputing parties better understand and communicate their interest along with their legal and practical choices. Simply put, mediators help both parties:
- communicate more effectively
- examine practical and legal options for settlement, and
- come to a mutually agreeable and acceptable solution of the problem.
Stages of Mediation
Even though mediation isn’t as structured as the court process, mediation is typically more formal than most people assume. The typical mediation process involves the following six stages.
- Mediator’s opening statement. Is when the mediator conducts an introduction and explains the rules and goals of the mediation.
- Disputants’ opening statements. Is when each party explains the dispute, how they were affected, and their own proposed solution. During this time, you aren’t allowed to interrupt another person when they are speaking.
- Joint discussion. Is when the parties converse directly about their opening statements. This discussion allows the mediator to determine which issues should be discussed.
- Private caucuses. Is when each party meets individually with the mediator to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of their position. Through one or many private caucuses, the mediator also discusses new settlement ideas for each party.
- Joint negotiation. Happens when the mediator brings both parties back to negotiate directly.
- Closing. Is the end of the mediation when the mediator puts their provisions in writing as the parties listen if an agreement is reached. Both parties may be asked to sign the summary of the agreement, or the mediator may suggest they take the summary to their lawyers to review. When an agreement can’t be reached, the mediator reviews the progress and advises the parties to meet later, schedule arbitration, or court proceedings.
Benefits of Mediation
Overall, mediation has several benefits over other forms of litigation, which include:
- Confidentiality. In most cases, what you say in mediation cannot be divulged outside of the proceedings.
- Saves money. In most cases, mediation is significantly less than litigation or other forms of fighting.
- Quick settlement. Mediation sessions are typically scheduled a few weeks to a couple of months from when it’s requested. Sessions can typically last anywhere from a few hours to a day, depending on the case.
- Mutually satisfactory outcomes. Since mediation requires both parties to agree, the outcome is typically more satisfactory and has a higher compliance rate in contrast to decision made by a third party, such as a judge.
- Customized and comprehensive agreements. Since mediation settlements can address both legal and extra legal issues, the agreement can include psychological and procedural issues. In addition, parties can specifically tailor their settlement based on their individual situation.
- More control and outcome predictability. By negotiating your own settlement, you will have more control over the outcome of the dispute and be able to better predict losses and/or gains.
- Preservation of relationship. Since many relationships must continue after the resolution of a dispute, mediation offers a way to preserve a working relationship. In addition, mediation can enable an amicable termination of a relationship.