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What is Mediation?

Mediation is a process in which a neutral person facilitates communication between two people with a legal dispute in order to assist them in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. The mediator is usually a lawyer or a retired judge. The parties generally share the expenses of hiring the mediator. Mediating a case before a lawsuit is filed enables parties to present their case to a mutually selected neutral person before any money is spent on litigation and may often prevent litigation altogether.

Why Choose Mediation
What Types of Disputes can be Mediated
How Mediation Works
How to Begin Mediation
The Difference Between Mediation and Arbitration
The Cost of Mediation
The Limits of Mediation

Why Choose Mediation

While mediation cannot guarantee specific results, there are trends that are characteristic of mediation. Mediation generally produces or promotes:

  • Economic Decisions: It is generally less expensive than litigation.
  • Rapid Settlements: It often provides a quick way to resolve disputes compared to the months or years it takes to settle a lawsuit.
  • Mutually Satisfactory Outcomes: People are generally more satisfied with solutions that have been mutually agreed upon rather than those imposed by a third-party decision maker.
  • High Compliance: People who have reached their own agreement are more likely to follow through and comply with its terms than those whose resolution has been dictated.
  • Greater Degree of Control and Predictability of Outcome: People who negotiate their own settlements have more control over the outcome of a dispute than those who litigate or arbitrate a dispute.
  • Preservation of an Ongoing Relationship: Many disputes occur in the context of a relationship that will continue into the future. Mediation can often preserve a working relationship or amicably terminate a relationship better than a win or lose decision-making procedure.
  • Workable and Implementable Decisions: People who mediate their differences are able to attend to the fine details of implementation rather than an impartial forced settlement that may not take into consideration the particularities of a situation.
  • Decisions that Hold Up: Mediated settlements tend to last over time due to the involvement and agreements of the participating parties.

What Types of Disputes Can Be Mediated

Almost all kinds of disputes can be mediated. It can be especially useful in cases such as:

  • Contracts
  • Divorces
  • Employment disputes
  • Estate Probate Disputes
  • Family Business issues

How Mediation Works

  • An independent third-party mediator is selected and agreed upon by both parties.
  • The mediator asks each of the parties to prepare a written statement in which they set out their version of the dispute.
  • The mediator reviews the statements and gives the parties a chance to tell their story at the mediation.
  • After learning about the dispute, the mediator will work with each party to adjust or settle the dispute based upon the mediator's assessment of the merits of each claim and find a resolution agreeable to both parties.

How to Begin Mediation

The first step in mediation is to select a mediator. There are a number of ways to locate a mediator:

  • Some attorneys, including the attorneys at WylieLaw, provide mediation services.
  • The internet has many sites with helpful information about mediation, such as mediate.com.
  • Consult publications such as the Consumer's Guide to Mediation published by the Alaska Judicial Council.
  • Contact your local Bar Association for a list of approved mediators.

The Difference Between Mediation and Arbitration

  • Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party (the mediator) assists the disputing parties in reaching their own settlement, but does not have the authority to make a binding decision.
  • Arbitration is a process in which a neutral third party (the arbitrator) reaches a decision resulting in a binding settlement.

The Cost of Mediation

The cost of mediation is usually limited to the fee set by the mediator and can vary widely. Most often, the cost of mediation is minimal compared to the costs incurred in a lawsuit.

The Limits of Mediation

While mediation can help you reach an agreeable solution, there are limits.

  • A mediator should push, urge and cajole, but should not direct, that is, tell the parties what to do or what decisions to make.
  • Mediators differ in the amount of legal information they provide.
  • Even if a mediator does give legal information, most clients can still benefit from individual legal advice, representation at the mediation, and/or negotiation coaching from their own lawyer.
  • Mediation is only as successful as the good faith offered by the participants. In other words, if one party refuses to compromise, mediation will not be successful.