Mediation, which is one alternative to lawsuits, is becoming a more popular way to resolve disputes. Mediation is an informal way for people to resolve disputes using a third party, called a mediator. The mediator is neutral and has been trained to help people discuss their differences. Mediators are not like judges and do not decide which party “wins”. The mediator instead helps the parties come to a solution on their own using communication between the parties and helping them focus on the real issues. The mediator can also think of options to resolve the conflict that would meet the needs of all parties.
Mediation is becoming more popular in part because it is less adversarial. People who are in a conflict can meet in a friendly way to discuss the issues. If parties will have to deal with each other again in the future, such as parents of children who are divorcing, mediation could help improve the relationship. Mediation can also help the parties learn how to deal with conflict in the future.
Another benefit of mediation is that it can be extremely fast when compared to a lawsuit. Lawsuits take at a minimum many months or years, and mediation takes less than three months on average. The court system is beginning to learn the benefits of mediation and many courts send thousands of cases to mediation each year rather than clog the dockets with cases that could be resolved with a mediator. Also, in many cases contracts between the parties in the case require that any dispute be mediated or arbitrated. This is common in construction disputes, medical malpractice cases and real estate purchase agreements.
Mediation is used in a variety disputes, from simple civil lawsuits and divorces to very complex cases. The mediator may have a background in the types of issues and disputes involved, although not necessarily. Mediators come from varied walks of live, and so their practical experience with a certain issue can be invaluable. An effective mediator is neutral in evaluation and resolving a case.
In order to begin mediation, an individual resolved in a dispute could propose mediation to the other side. Or, the mediator could call the other side with an invitation. Mediators can be found by referrals from courts or a bar association, as well as mediation companies. It is helpful to find a mediator with knowledge of the area of law of your dispute.
Mediation can often be very successful so long as the parties are willing to participate to reach a settlement. If a settlement isn’t reached, anything learned during the mediation is generally confidential under state law. However, often settlements are reached because parties are able to hear from the other side and learn more information than they would otherwise know in a lawsuit. Also, parties become invested in mediation and want to avoid spending large sums of money and more time on a trial.