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Mediation Cases: What Cases are Eligible for Mediation?

Mediation cases are a private and informal way of settling a dispute without relying on a legal judgment issued by a judge or jury. The parties involved in mediation meet with a neutral third party to reach a mutually agreeable solution that will end a conflict. Parties are not forced to agree to a solution in mediation. Rather, the mediator facilitates communication to help the parties reach a mutual agreement. Most of the time, lawyers are not involved in mediation and the parties in dispute typically represent themselves in the mediation process.

This article provides an overview of the types of cases that typically may be mediated. See FindLaw's Mediation section for additional information. 

What Kinds of Cases Can Be Mediated?

Mediation is available in most non-criminal matters. However, some non-violent criminal cases, like those involving verbal harassment, often result in a successful resolution during mediation. Claims that do not involve a legal issue are also good candidates for mediation. For example, a dispute with a neighbor over an encroaching bush or the brightness of their outdoor lights is hardly the type of claim that merits a lawsuit. In this type of situation, it may be wise to seek mediation to end the conflict.

Mediation cases often involve conflict arising in divorce and child custody issues and in disputes between family members, neighbors, business partners, landlords and tenants, and labor unions and management. In some jurisdictions, mediation is mandatory when it involves child custody issues and disagreements with neighbors.

Advantages of Mediation

In some situations, mediation may be preferable to filing a lawsuit. Mediation provides the following advantages:

  • Confidentiality. There are a few exceptions, but what the parties say during mediation is confidential and not subject to the future use in a lawsuit. Court cases, on the other hand, are matters of public record.
  • Costs less than a lawsuit. Mediation cases cost substantially less than court costs and attorney fees.
  • Faster resolution than going to court. Lawsuits may take years to result in a court ruling, but mediation can take as little as a few hours or a few sessions.
  • The parties decide. The parties in mediation, not a judge or jury, decide on the resolution.
  • The parties communicate directly. Rather than communicating through lawyers, the parties speak directly to each other.

What Occurs During Mediation

In most mediation cases, the following occurs:

  • Introduction. The mediator explains the rules and process involved in mediation.
  • Statements by the parties. Each party has the opportunity to describe the dispute.
  • Identification of the dispute. The mediator will ask the parties questions in order to gain a better understanding of the conflict.
  • Private caucuses. The mediator will conduct private meetings with the parties to obtain a better understanding of each party's side and to assess possible solutions.
  • Negotiation. The mediator will help the parties reach an agreeable solution.
  • Written agreement. If the parties reach a resolution, the mediator may put the agreement in writing and ask the parties to sign it. In many states, these agreements can be upheld in court.

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