Law mediation is one of the best ways to settle a case outside of court. If you are in a civil dispute and believe it can be handled peacefully, going through mediation can save you time and money. Mediators can help all parties come to an agreement based on terms and help them communicate with each other.
Mediation involves bringing in a neutral party, the mediator, who advises the two in a dispute to arrive at a compromise, settlement, or understanding. Mediators are similar to lawyers in that what they discuss privately with each party is confidential unless permission is given. Unlike arbiters, mediators cannot use their judgment or views to make the decision. Instead, a mediator guides the two parties individually, and together, to an agreement.
The primary difference between mediation and arbitration is the judging factor. While both involve a third neutral party, they have different methods to come to an agreement. A mediator cannot bring their personal judgment to a case and will instead search for a compromise that both parties agree on. Arbiters, however, serve almost as a judge over a settlement as they can use their best judgment and decision-making to create an agreement.
Another primary difference between the two legal methods is that mediation doesn’t have any legal bindings to it while arbitration can. Although it is optional to have a binding arbitration, it’s common for those going through arbitration to seek a binding agreement. In this case, the agreement or settlement that is agreed upon will have legal binding and parties could face legal repercussions if they break the contract.
In the process of mediation, there are five steps that you will go through before coming to a suitable conclusion:
- First Meeting
Introducing all the parties involved will allow everyone to feel comfortable in mediation. At this time, the mediator will typically talk about what it is that they will do for you, ensure the parties they are a neutral member, and tell them that the goal of a mediator is to ensure the resulting negotiation be fair and just. They will also talk about your case if you submitted pre-mediation forms and point out where they see issues. Finally, the mediator will give everyone a general outline of what to expect in the mediation process and discuss any rules that may need to be stated beforehand.
- Statement of Problem
Once the introductions have been said, the parties can start to explain the issues they are facing and tell their story. During this time, the party who is not telling their side is silent while the other party speaks. Mediation has the goal of coming to a reasonable agreement. If you can’t respect the other party enough to keep silent while the other speaks, mediation will have lost its point.
- Information Sharing
If this is the first time the mediator is coming in contact with your case, they will request something in the form of a summary or brief, detailing the facts, evidence, and other relevant information. Once the mediator has an idea of what the issue is, they will speak to the parties individually to get the reason and if/why they seek a certain outcome.
- Clarification of the Problem
Here the mediator will meet with both parties and clarify the problem and discuss any necessary information from the dialogs before. The mediator will restate what they believe to be the heart of the issue before continuing on with the mediation.
Once the mediator has determined and outlined the issues present, the negotiations will begin. This process can have a lot of different steps including group discussions and hypotheticals pertaining to compensation and/or agreement. The mediator will put up a settlement which the participants are required to amend until they come to a reasonable conclusion. Another option is private discussions, or a “caucus,” with the mediator. Private meetings with the mediator are confidential and private with single party members. This time is used to brainstorm suitable compromises as well as discuss emotions and potential fears.
The cost of a mediator varies widely, but you can expect to pay $100-$500 per hour depending on the case and the mediator. Complicated cases that require the mediator to go through a lot of information to let the parties come to a suitable agreement will cost more than simple case mediation. You can also expect commercial mediators who have mediated dozens of cases, or those who actively practice law, to be more costly. However, commercial mediators and those who actively practice law will usually give the parties more favorable outcomes as they are more knowledgeable in negotiating various options to the clients.
Surprisingly, there isn’t much you can’t mediate. When it comes to civil disputes, the courts usually favor a mediation process as not only are they cheaper on the individuals, they also prevent overcrowding the court system. Going through the judicial system is often unnecessary if the parties are able to converse or otherwise act civil towards each other.
Here are common civil disputes that you can mediate:
- Family—custody, parentage, or guardian problems.
- Foreclosure—discussing financial situations with the bank manager.
- Estate—splitting property in divorce or estate-related issues.
- Wills—disbursement of property or estate issues.
- Disputes—any civil dispute and some non-violent crimes.
- Disability—disagreements or poor treatment of a disabled person.
Almost all non-criminal cases can be solved through mediation and often result in a better outcome for the participants. Even some small, non-violent criminal charges such as verbal assault can be mediated.
Here at Vahey and Betouni Law, LLC, we understand what mediation means to you. As professional mediators, we’ve helped dozens of people come to an understanding agreement. Mediation is cheaper, quicker, and more reliable to get the desired outcome, than going through an arduous trial process for a civil dispute. Contact us to start your mediation process today.