Mediation Overview

Pursuing a case in court can be time consuming and expensive. When you want to avoid spending a lot of time, money, and effort settling a legal matter, you may not want to retain a lawyer or face appearing before a judge or jury.

Instead, you may get the legal outcome you want by going through the mediation process. Before you decide whether or not to mediate your case, you need to understand the full mediation definition as it might apply to your circumstances. Once you comprehend what is mediation, you can decide if you want to go through this simpler yet still legally binding conflict resolution available for some types of cases.

The most basic mediation definition involves the use of a mediator to resolve a case without the need for a judge or jury. Mediation itself is a type of ADR, or Alternative Dispute Resolution, utilized at all levels of the court system in the U.S.

It is essentially a negotiation process facilitated by a third-party neutral mediator. It does not seek or encompass a formal judgment and can be requested by either or both parties involved in the case.

Mediation may also be stipulated by legislation, contractual terms, or court mandates. It allows both parties involved in the case to end their conflict mutually through an agreeable solution.

The mediator in the case oversees the exchange of information between both parties as well as facilitates discussion and communication. Lawyers are not typically involved in the mediation process. Instead, most people represent themselves in the meetings.

When you want to save yourself time, money, and effort, you may like the idea of going through this kind of legal process to resolve your dispute. Before you request a mediator for your case, you should learn what actually goes on in the process and what you can expect to happen after the case is fully mediated and resolved.

The Process of Mediating a Case

When you want to learn more about what is mediation, it is important that you discover the actual steps involved in mediating a dispute or legal case. The processes may depend on the types of mediation being sought by the involved parties. Likewise, the meditation types available to you can depend on the nature of the dispute or case that you are pursuing.

Still, most meditation types of meetings begin with both parties formally introducing themselves to the person doing the mediating of the case. It generally is assumed that both parties already know each other. However, if anyone on either side is not formally known to someone on the other side, they can make introductions at this point of the process.

Next, the person who will mediate the case will inform both parties together what is expected of them during the proceedings. You will learn the rules by which you must abide as well as the possible outcomes available to you. If you have any questions about the process, you should ask them at this time before the proceedings get underway.

The mediator will then take a statement from each party involved in the dispute. The statements can be given in front of the other party or in private. This information allows the mediator to gain a better understanding of the case and what is at stake with the outcome.

Next, the third-party overseer will meet privately with each party. These meetings, called caucuses, allow the mediator to gain a better understanding of the dispute and also gain an objective viewpoint of the matter.

After the caucuses are over, the mediator will then start the negotiation process. You and the other party are expected to reach a mutually agreeable solution that works to the benefit of both of you.

If you reach such an agreement, the mediator will put it in writing for both of you. If not, you and the other party must consider another legal means by which to settle your case.

Types of Cases to Mediate

The court system allows for many types of mediation to take place outside of the courtroom. While this type of conflict resolution cannot be used to settle criminal cases, mediation can be used to settle matters that are relatively minor in nature yet still contentious with significant outcomes at stake.

For example, people who are getting divorced may want to mediate their cases rather than go before a family court. You may be able to mediate your divorce if you do not have significant marital assets at stake or the case does not involve offenses like domestic violence. Likewise, you could mediate your child custody case if you and your spouse can reach a fast and agreeable solution.

Along with divorce mediation, people may want to mediate cases that involve:

  • neighbor conflicts
  • labor union disputes
  • family conflicts
  • challenges with business partners, housing contracts, landlords, or management companies

Mediation is also a tactic commonly recommended in small claims or tenant-landlord cases as well as some family court cases. This method of resolving legal situations comes with numerous advantages that make it more appealing to people who want to avoid spending the time, money, and effort otherwise involved with going before a judge or jury.

Advantages of Mediation

Many people who use this ADR tactic do so because they want to utilize the advantages that come with having their cases mediated out of the courtroom. When you mediate your legal matter, for instance, you can get a faster and more affordable outcome than if you were to pursue a courtroom appearance or jury trial.

Mediation is less expensive and typically only takes a matter of weeks if not days to complete. Rather than endure weeks of court appearances, you can resolve your legal matter faster and with less money out of pocket with mediation.

Second, mediation of any kind including divorce mediation is confidential and legally binding. Regardless of the outcome you and the other party decide on, you get the full confidence in knowing that the agreement is fully enforceable by law and can only be altered by a court order or by going through the mediation process again.

Finally, this type of ADR allows you to have a direct say in the case's outcome. You are not subject to the decision of a judge or jury. You are encouraged and invited to participate fully in the discussion, argue for yourself, and tell your side of the story to the mediator.

You do not even have to retain a lawyer to represent you or to speak on your behalf. If you want the luxury of having more control over the outcome of your case, you may decide to have it mediated rather than heard in court.

Still, you should be aware of what is expected of you after the mediator has guided you and the other party toward a mutually agreeable solution. This understanding can help you avoid violating that agreement and likewise know what to do if you want to have the written contract changed at any point in the future.

Post-Mediation Rules

As mentioned, any agreement that you and the other party reach in the process will become legally binding. This agreement will be provided to you and the other person in writing. It will also be filed with the court and become an official court judgment.

As such, the agreement is fully enforceable by law and can require your arrest or punishment if you violate it. You will not have the discretion to do whatever you want regardless of what is written in the contract. You are bound by the terms stipulated in writing to you.

That is not to say; however, that you do not have the right to ask for the terms to be revisited at any time you choose. If you decide later that you do not agree with some or all of the stipulations in the agreement, you can request to go before the mediator again. If the other party does not agree to mediation, you may have to seek resolution through other means. Until then, you are still legally bound by the terms in the written contract.

You likewise must use other means available to you if you and the other party cannot reach a solution through this process. If despite the best efforts of the mediator as well as both parties you cannot reach an agreement, you may need to take your case before a judge or jury. In this instance, the mediator may agree that no solution can be obtained and your best option for closure would be to pursue the matter more fully through the court system.

Short Version

Many people make the mistake of believing that their legal matters can only be resolved in court. They think that they must hire a lawyer and await a court appearance before a judge or jury to have their cases decided. In fact, you do not have to spend the time, money, or effort filing and pursuing a case in court. You can reach a viable solution and have more of a say in its outcome by going through mediation.

Mediation is a faster and more cost effective method of settling legal disputes. It cannot be used to resolve criminal matters. However, it can be utilized to settle housing or landlord issues, union conflicts, managerial conflicts, and other types of civil cases.

You also do not have to hire a lawyer to represent you in this type of process. You can represent yourself and avoid spending the money on lawyer retainer fees.

People with relatively minor legal cases to pursue are encouraged to use this process to save both time and money. If you and your spouse get along well and can reach an agreeable outcome, you can even pursue divorce mediation rather than having to appear before a family court judge. You should not use this process if your divorce involves domestic violence or child abuse.

Before you go through this type of proceeding, it is important that you realize that any outcome that you reach will be legally binding and fully enforceable. You cannot disregard the order once it is agreed upon and filed with the court.

You can reach the best outcome by utilizing every step of the process to the fullest. You will have the chance to meet with the mediator privately in a caucus. You also get the chance to provide an opening statement to lay the foundation for your side of the story.

If utilized properly, this process can be faster, less expensive, and just as satisfying as going through the court system. It allows you to have a direct say in your case and also participate fully in reaching the resolution that is fair and also in your best interests.