Mediation is a process by which two or more parties involved in a dispute can work together with the help of a neutral third-party mediator to reach a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their disputes. The mediator does not take sides or choose a winner or loser. The mediator is simply a facilitator to assist the parties in the process.
When can parties submit their disputes to mediation?
Sometimes parties are required to submit their disputes to mediation based on an agreement or contract. For example, a contract between parties may provide that any disputes arising out of the contract must be submitted to mediation. There may even be a timeframe involved, so parties should be sure to read any applicable contracts carefully before choosing their dispute resolution process.
Even when no such contractual provision exists, the parties are generally free to choose mediation as a means of resolving their disputes at any time. For example, when informal conversations between parties are unsuccessful in resolving disputes, or if litigation proves to be too expensive or time consuming, parties are generally free to explore mediation. Even when the parties are already involved in litigation, judges often encourage parties to explore mediation.
Why choose mediation?
Mediation is less formal than litigation and gives the parties control over the outcome rather than submitting the issues to a judge or arbitrator to decide. Many parties find this process to be less stressful and more efficient both in terms of time and cost.
The length of time involved in mediation depends on the dispute and the parties. Some parties reach agreements quickly, others need more time. Mediators generally accommodate the parties’ schedules, and mediation sessions can either take place in full-day segments or in shorter sessions. Because parties generally submit to mediation voluntarily, the parties are free to walk away from the process at any time if they do not feel that it is working for them. Overall, mediation generally consumes much less time than litigation or arbitration.
Because mediation can result in a resolution of a dispute in less time than litigation or arbitration, the cost involved is also much less. While the parties are free to retain separate attorneys to represent them in mediation, it is not required. This also cuts down on the cost involved.The significant cost savings associated with mediation makes it an option for parties who may otherwise be priced out of litigation. In other words, if the amount at issue in a dispute does not justify the costs associated with litigation, mediation may be a less expensive alternative dispute resolution process.