There is a lot of information out there about how mediation can help you resolve a dispute without going to court. But not everyone understands how it works and why it is a good thing to try before filing a lawsuit. Along with other kinds of alternatives-to-litigation, known as “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR), mediation often works faster than the court system and keep costs down significantly. Additionally, mediation is available for many different kinds of disputes, including divorce, custody and personal injury cases.

How Mediation Starts

If both parties to a dispute wish to avoid a long and contentious court battle, they can agree to mediate a solution. If the parties are represented by lawyers, they will work through their own lawyers to choose a mediator on which they can both agree.

If no lawyers are currently involved in the dispute, parties can work directly with each other to agree on a mediator. The mediator can be someone who works for an ADR company like the American Arbitration Association or a private person, often a lawyer. Once the two parties agree on who will mediate the dispute between them, the work of finding a solution can begin.

The Mediator’s Role

The mediator does not make decisions that legally bind the parties, as a judge would. Instead, the mediator acts as a neutral third-party who goes back and forth between the parties with information and suggestions designed to reach a consensus.

Mediators try to help the parties to explain each one’s concerns to the other in a logical way, lower or change expectations to be more realistic, and offer creative ways to solve the problem. They also help people control their emotions by explaining facts and consequences without making judgements. Mediators don’t look to determine fault.

After the Mediation Is Over

The mediator or one of the attorneys will likely draft a written agreement that reflects the terms of the solution to the dispute that the parties reached. Once the parties sign the agreement, it generally becomes a legally-binding contract, enforceable in court.

Is Mediation a Good Option?

Certain legal disputes require parties to mediate or arbitrate before the parties are able to move to a court trial. Aside from those situations, it is generally the parties’ decision to try mediation. Mediation gives the participants control over when it happens, where it takes place, who will pay for it, who can attend and how much power the mediator has. In contrast, a full-blown court trial is expensive and could drag on for years.

Weighing the full pros and cons of mediation requires knowledge of the process and expected outcomes. If you have questions about any of this, contact our experienced team today.

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