If disputing parties try negotiating but cannot reach a mutual agreement, they will often introduce an impartial third party in what is known as mediation.
is a process in which disputing parties have a neutral facilitator to help them settle outside of court
. Mediation can be voluntary or court-ordered depending on your state and specific dispute.
Disputing parties can each hire a lawyer to provide them with guidance and legal advice
during mediation, but it is not a requirement to do so. It is a good idea to hire a lawyer most of the time because they can explain how laws and legislation impact the dispute.
Mediation is mainly associated with family law, but it can also be used in other types of cases. In some states, during family law cases, such as custody battles or divorces
, parties have to attempt mediation before they have the option of litigation. In other states, courts can order parties to try mediation when they believe it may be helpful.
The mediator is the neutral facilitator that guides mediation. Mediators help parties reach a compromise but do not give legal advice or decide the outcome of a dispute. They ensure the parties understand the law and facts, facilitate the negotiation process, and let the disputing parties decide the settlement for themselves.
States have varying requirements for working as a mediator, meaning education, training, and experience can vary widely. Some states, such as Alaska
, have no standards or licensing requirements. Other states have court-certified mediators
and have specific rules for becoming a mediator.
For voluntary mediation, disputing parties can begin the mediation process once they recognize that negotiating is not working and they cannot settle their dispute on their own. Mediation starts with hiring a mediator
Once the parties have a mediator, both parties, the mediator, and possibly each party’s lawyer meet in a neutral location. Generally, the mediator will follow these steps:
- Establish the rules: The mediator explains the process and sets some rules for behavior. Mediators may also ask for a verbal commitment from each party that they are willing to compromise and work towards a mutual agreement.
- Present each party’s case: Each party presents their case and explains their point of view regarding the dispute.
- Meet with each party individually: The mediator may meet with each party separately to better understand all the details.
- Consider the law: If each party has a lawyer, the lawyers will discuss how certain laws and legislation affect the case. Mediators ensure that the parties and their lawyers are considering relevant laws.
- Negotiate between the parties: The parties will eventually negotiate to reach a settlement. Parties can negotiate by meeting with their mediator or communicating through their mediator.
- Settle the case: Mediators attempt to help the parties reach a solution or settlement.
The cost of mediation varies greatly
depending on the type and complexity of the dispute, and the mediator. Mediators on Thumbtack
cost $170 to $200 per hour. If you are considering hiring a mediator, ask for a quote or a breakdown of their pricing beforehand.
Much like mediation costs, the amount of time mediation takes depends on the type and complexity of the dispute. Furthermore, finding a mediator and getting scheduled into their availability can take time.
According to CommunityDispute.org
, mediation sessions usually last two to three hours
. If a dispute is somewhat straightforward with only one or two issues at hand, it could be resolved in a single session. Multiple sessions are usually needed for more complex disputes, such as divorces involving children.
No, mediation does not take place in court. Unlike litigation, which takes place in court, mediation can happen wherever parties choose. Typically, parties agree on a neutral, less formal location to meet with their mediator.
Mediation has many benefits, including:
- It is more affordable than litigation
- It is a flexible process that allows a customized resolution
- It allows parties to retain control and decide how to resolve their dispute
- It is informal and does not require the involvement of a court
- It typically is a much faster process than litigation
- It encourages collaboration and can protect relationships
- It is confidential, unlike litigation which is public except for family law
No, mediation is a non-binding process, unlike arbitration. Even when mediation is court-ordered, it is still a non-binding process. This means that disputing parties are not obligated to accept a settlement or resolution. Instead, they must voluntarily and mutually agree to a solution. Mediators never impose a binding decision on the parties.
Once disputing parties agree to a solution and sign a contract that outlines the terms of their agreement, the terms of the contract become legally binding.