Q. What is mediation?
A. Mediation is a dispute resolution process which is facilitated by a neutral mediator. Two or more parties can resolve their conflicts in a safe, confidential forum. Any agreements the parties make are strictly voluntary.
Q. What is the benefit of mediation?
A. Mediation is private, voluntary, and less expensive than litigation. The parties control the final outcome of the mediation. With mediation (or other dispute resolution services), there are more creative outcomes possible than in a court setting. Mediation helps parties see the matter in ways different from their previous, fixed positions. If the parties are in a court ordered mediation, the mediator prepares a document outlining the parties’ agreements in the form of a memorandum of understanding. The document would be filed with the court. If the parties were not in a court ordered mediation, the mediator would prepare a draft agreement for the parties review along with their attorneys, if represented, and the parties’ signatures.
Q. How do Mediation services differ from Arbitration?
A. In mediation the parties make their own decisions with the assistance of the mediator who guides the process. In arbitration, the parties present their case along with their evidence and witnesses and the arbitrator makes the decision also known as an award. The arbitration process is usually used to resolve labor-management type disputes. It is less formal than going to court and the formal rules of evidence do not apply.
Q. Do Mediators decide the dispute?
A. No. The mediator remains a neutral, impartial facilitator who puts the parties in a position to communicate better and decide upon their mutual resolution.
Q. Does the Mediator give the disputing parties legal advice?
A. No. The mediator is ethically prohibited from doing so. Parties may have their legal representatives in mediation, and parties have a right to have any agreement they reach reviewed by a lawyer of their choice before signing a final agreement. A mediator may provide information that would help the parties take a fresh look at things or check the reality of their positions.
Q. Is Mediation successful?
A. Yes. Agreements are reached in the majority of situations. Sometimes parties do not reach written agreements but if they discover a new way of viewing the matter or dealing with each other, they still find the mediation worthwhile.
Q. How long does mediation take?
A. It depends upon the particular matters in dispute and also on what the parties want to get done in the mediation. In more complicated disputes the mediation can be structured to last all day, or can be broken into phased meetings. How the mediation sessions are structured depends upon the people involved, their expectations, the dispute, and the mediator's instincts as to what will help get the job done.
Q. What if the parties reach an agreement?
A. If the parties reach an agreement, the mediator will prepare a document (Memorandum of Understanding) that contains the parties’ agreements.
Q. What if the parties do not reach an agreement? It depends on the nature of the case. If the dispute is in court, the litigation will continue. If it is pre-suit then one side may commence litigation. If that happens there may probably be another opportunity to mediate once the information is exchanged through the discovery process. In other types of disputes, such as, labor-management disputes, the parties can request the mediator arbitrate the case and issue a decision called an award, based on the parties’ evidence.
Q. How much does Mediation and/or Arbitration cost?
A. Generally, the mediator is paid an hourly rate split between the parties in mediation. The mediator also charges for any costs incurred, such as travel and per diem expenses as necessary. Arbitrations are paid on a daily basis including expenses and time to research and prepare the award.