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The Mediation Process

Welcome to FindLaw's Mediation Process section. Mediating a dispute may provide a valuable alternative to a courtroom, or at least be a viable first option before resorting to litigation. It is considerably less adversarial and encourages the parties to work out an equitable agreement without lawyering up. However, before seeking mediation, it is a good idea to be well-informed about how the process works and what to expect. In this section, you will find articles outlining some of the advantages offered by mediation, answers to commonly asked questions about mediation, the types of cases that typically are good for mediation, and more.

Lawsuit Mediation: Compromise Before Suing

The mediation process is meant to help parties resolve an issue without needing to take matters to court, leaving lawsuits a last resort when negotiation fails. Mediation can be a more efficient, less expensive, and less contentious way to resolve a problem when you have an ongoing relationship with the other party.

Lawsuit mediation describes a range of different methods that parties use to reach a mutually acceptable resolution to a problem, though it typically refers to either direct negotiation or assisted mediation. Direct negotiation is when the two parties communicate without an intermediary. You and the other party can make offers to compromise without giving up the right to sue later if the offer isn't accepted.

If you choose to negotiate directly it is valuable to consider some factors in advance of negotiations;

  • the odds of winning a lawsuit
  • your "bottom line"
  • the different kinds of remedies you might accept in the place of money
  • how much time you are willing to spend negotiating before pursuing other options

Assisted mediation also involves offers to compromise, but in this case with the assistance of an impartial third party. Mediators may be licensed attorneys or trained in mediation. Though less expensive than many lawsuits; mediators do not generally work for free.

However the dispute is resolved it is wise to get an agreement in writing. In assisted mediation the final agreement will be in writing as a matter of policy. Your agreement doesn't need the formality of a notary or witnesses, but oral promises are very difficult to enforce and having a written agreement will help you if problems arise later.

The Advantages of Mediation over Lawsuits

Although not always appropriate, there are some very good reasons why mediation can be a better option than taking someone to court;

  • Mediation usually only takes days or weeks, while lawsuits can continue for months or years.
  • Mediation is much less expensive than most lawsuits. Hiring a mediator costs less than hiring an attorney and they are required for a shorter period of time. Many nonprofits offer mediation free or at a low rate.
  • Mediation is a relatively informal process, which makes it less confusing than court.
  • Mediation is confidential, unlike court cases, which are public record.
  • Mediation results in fewer hurt feelings and broken relationships because the parties work together to find a solution rather than fighting over who was at fault.
  • Mediation allows more flexible procedures and outcomes than courts, which are constrained by the law. In mediation the parties have authority to set or change rules and determine the best outcome.
  • People are generally more satisfied with the outcome of mediation than they are with the result of a trial.
  • The agreements that are produced in mediation have a higher rate of compliance than most lawsuits.
Learn About the Mediation Process