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Mediation FAQ

Settling a dispute through litigation can be expensive, stressful, and frustrating. Rather than taking a dispute to court, many court cases are eligible for mediation. Unlike a court trial or arbitration, no judge or other factfinder can issue a ruling. Instead, a mediator helps the two parties find a mutually agreeable solution.

This article will answer frequently asked questions (FAQ) about mediation as a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The article addresses how mediation works and the reasons for choosing mediation. The article also discusses what types of cases can be mediated.

Frequently Asked Questions About Mediation

How does mediation work?

When two parties are involved in a civil dispute, the best solution might be the one they both agree is fair. This is the goal of mediation. In mediation, the two parties come together to discuss terms they want to settle their dispute fairly.

A neutral third party, the mediator, guides the parties through this process and establishes the ground rules. The neutral person helps the parties understand each other's perspectives and provides advice on the bargaining process.

Unlike court cases and arbitration, where the parties may be bound by law to follow a ruling with which they disagree, parties in mediation only become bound by what they decide is fair. The mediator can't impose any terms the parties don't accept as part of a mediation agreement. This is one of the main benefits of mediation.

When deciding whether mediation suits your dispute, you must consider other aspects of the mediation process. These considerations include how to find the right mediator and what kinds of solutions mediation can and can't offer.

Why choose mediation?

Parties might choose mediation over litigation for a variety of reasons. Mediation usually offers faster results than a formal lawsuit. The cost of mediation is also generally lower than that of a traditional lawsuit. Additionally, mediation sessions allow the parties to control the solution rather than relying on a judge to make a ruling that may satisfy neither party.

A party might decide not to pursue mediation when a compromise or settlement agreement isn't in their best interest. When an injured party believes the other party is entirely at fault, the injured party might not want to negotiate through mediation.

What types of cases can be mediated?

Mediation is available for a variety of civil cases. Mediation is often the best choice for cases that don't involve large sums of money or complicated legal issues. These disputes can range from disputes between business partners to arguments between neighbors. These disputes often can be resolved through better communication rather than expensive legal wrangling. Therefore, mediation can offer a less expensive alternative to court.

Some states require child custody disputes to go through mediation before a party can bring a claim in court. This is a type of court-ordered mediation. Parents can devise a child custody plan together rather than having a judge impose one that may not be best for the child or the parents.

Other family law cases are often subject to mediation, too. These include:

  • Child support mediation
  • Divorce mediation

Some mediators offer divorcing couples mediation services on all divorce-related issues. These facilitators are often family law attorneys.

Can I mediate a criminal case?

Mediation can often resolve nonviolent criminal matters. An example of a nonviolent criminal case is verbal harassment. Some jurisdictions may refer certain criminal cases for restorative justice mediation. Restorative justice programs in a criminal case will often involve victim-offender conferencing. Like civil mediation, these programs are voluntary. In appropriate cases, they may permit crime victims to get answers to questions about why the crime occurred and why they became the focus. It may allow offenders to express remorse. The victim and offender may agree on restitution or other remedies. In a structured way, such mediation programs can help resolve criminal cases satisfactorily for both the victim and the offender.

Criminal case mediation can assist the process of negotiating a plea bargain in appropriate circumstances. In mediation, interested parties may agree on a dismissal or reduction in charges or upon an agreed plea and sentence. If the parties reach an agreed settlement, they must still gain approval from the defense attorney, prosecutor, and the court.

What does mediation cost?

It depends. In most civil cases, parties wanting to mediate must select their own private mediator. This is often an attorney or trained mediator with experience in the area of law at issue in the case. Mediators charge an hourly rate, but it may be less than the rate of an attorney representing you in court. The parties may agree to equally share the mediation fee or set up another arrangement.

In divorce cases, the family court may provide the services of a court mediator at no charge or a reduced charge to the parties. Some federal agencies, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), may permit referral to a mediation program sponsored by the agency at no cost to the parties.

You Don't Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer's Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand the different types of mediation and how to protect your legal rights during a mediated settlement. Visit FindLaw's attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can provide legal advice about mediation services.

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You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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