No matter the kind of case an individual is pursuing, civil litigation costs can be expensive. Those planning to take a claim to trial can expect to pay fees for filing, subpoenas, copying, transcripts, court reporters, attorneys and other costs before trial. In the event that the judgment is in a claimant's favor, he or she might recover some of these costs. But for people who wish to avoid paying large sums of money or want to resolve a dispute in a way that won't destroy their relationship with the opposing party, mediation may be a suitable alternative.
Mediation is an effective method to resolve legal problems and is considered one of several options available to resolve disputes outside of court. Mediation sessions are structured and provide for a neutral third party (called a mediator) to listen to both parties and facilitate a discussion between them. In the process of litigation, a third party - usually a judge - hears the arguments of both sides and imposes a decision on the matter. But in the mediation process, the mediator is not there to impose an order on the parties. Instead, the mediator aids in finding common ground, whether that comes in the form of a final settlement or a decision to limit the issues for trial. In some jurisdictions, mediation is required for specific causes of action. Some parties recognize the advantages of the alternative resolution and choose to resolve issues this way even when the process is not mandated by the court.
Before mediation sessions, the claimant and the opposing party usually sign a mediation agreement that lays out guidelines for the mediation session, which should include the following:
- All parties agree that the mediation should be confidential, privileged and non-binding. The term “non-binding” refers to the fact that a decision cannot be imposed on all parties. Each person involved should voluntarily agree to accept the reached agreement.
- All parties agree to continue mediation until it becomes useless to continue. If they can not reach an agreement, the mediation will become an impasse - the inability to progress due to parties remaining in disagreement.
- All parties agree on who will be asked to conduct the mediation and how they will be paid. Typically, payments are evenly split between parties.
During a Mediation
In most mediation cases there is a structured order of events that occur in order for the sessions to properly progress. First, there is an introduction where the mediator explains the rules and process of the mediation. Next, each party is expected to make a statement describing their perspective of the dispute. After each of the parties has made a statement, it is the mediator's turn to ask questions and make observations in order to gain a better understanding of the conflict. This may entail privately meeting with each party separately to gain insight of their circumstances. When the mediator has gained enough information about each party's stance, he or she will help them come to an agreeable solution. If a solution is successfully reached, the mediator may put the agreement in writing and ask each party to sign it.
Advantages of Mediation
Here are a few attractive factors about the mediation process that many claimants prefer to filing a lawsuit and going to trial:
The element of confidentiality in mediation cases is crucial, especially when both parties want their efforts to result in a successful outcome. When individuals decide to pursue legal recourse, their motivations behind filing are often emotional. In mediation sessions, clients often disclose their own personal and private perceptions and opinions on the matter at hand. These expressed frustrations are often key to understanding the conflict and facilitating resolution. For this reason, it must be assured that the discussions had in mediation sessions must not be disclosed to outside parties by everyone involved, including the mediator.
During mediation, parties are encouraged to directly communicate as opposed to discussing matters through lawyers like one would in the litigation process. Since conciliation can only occur through the cohesive communication and a clear understanding of the conflict, being able to ask questions and make statements face to face is oftentimes a preferable way for parties to reach a resolution.
Faster (and cost-effective) Alternative
Depending on the case, lawsuits that go to trial can often take lengthy amounts of time to result in a court ruling. Conversely, mediation may take as little as a few hours or may persist for a few sessions. In addition, when a mediation session is scheduled, the only fee included is paying the mediator. Costs for mediation are not nearly as high as court costs.
In mediation, the parties can agree to things that the court is not legally permitted to order. Usually, most civil disputes are resolved with money. Sometimes, disputes can be better resolved by creative means that the parties devise, which are beyond what a court is allowed to order on its own. This allows each case to be resolved in a unique manner through mediation.
Experienced Wisconsin Attorney
If you are in the middle of a dispute and feel that mediation is the best method for you, consider hiring Attorney Mara Spring to mediate your dispute. Attorney Mara Spring has extensive education and experience in mediation. She earned her Master's degree in Dispute Resolution from Marquette University, and served as a court-appointed mediator for family court cases, resolving nearly 200 custody and placement disputes. Attorney Spring has also mediated several civil cases, from two-party property disputes to multi- party business issues. She is available to mediate any dispute.