Mediation is an alternative to litigation which can help people in conflict resolve legal issues with the help of a neutral third party.
Instead of bringing a conflict before a judge, parties can agree to mediate and create a legally binding agreement to solve their specific problem. Typical mediations involve at least one mediator and the parties themselves; family members or friends are usually not included, unless they are specifically involved in the conflict as well.
The mediation takes place privately.
Since mediations often result in emotional or personal discussions, and everyone in the room is often required to sign a confidentiality agreement. Trying mediation can be an excellent alternative to litigation which:
- allows the parties to communicate about their dispute in a neutral environment,
- spend less money and time in the courtroom,
- and tailor their own legal agreement to keep the conflict from happening again.
Mediating benefits both parties by helping them to communicate about the problem, resolve the issue in a way they know will work in the long-term, and spend less money and time in court.
Unlike an attorney who gives legal advice and advocates for her client, a mediator’s job is to facilitate a conversation between the parties that will help them to resolve their own dispute.
A good mediator can
- diffuse the tension,
- help the clients find the source of the problem,
- and brainstorm ways to prevent future conflicts.
Litigation versus Mediation
Although litigating also ends in resolution through the Judge, one or both sides of the dispute are often dissatisfied with the final product, especially with the cost. Litigation requires much more time than mediation, therefore is more expensive than a mediation. Also, the personalized resolution through mediation can last longer in cases that involve an ongoing conflict.
Sometimes, parties need to communicate and set their own boundaries. If the parties can reach a truce, the mediator will write a Mediation Agreement, which is a legally binding document outlining what the parties agreed to do or refrain from doing. If one party breaks the agreement, the other can bring the Mediation Agreement to court and the claim will go to a judge.
When is Mediation the best option?
It should be noted that mediation is not appropriate for every case. Mediation is only appropriate for self-initiated cases– for example:
- minor criminal cases that were not initiated by the police,
- and many healthcare cases.
In some courts, mediation is mandatory for self-initiated claims, so it is important to consider that before filing a claim. Cases in criminal court involving domestic violence must go to a Judge and are not able to be mediated.