Mediation, one form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), can be an effective way of resolving a dispute out of court. It is typically limited to civil cases, although some non-violent criminal acts (such as harassment) may be resolved through mediation. Mediation differs from arbitration, but they are both alternatives to litigation through the courts. This section includes articles covering the basics of mediation, the types of cases that may be mediated, how it works with small claims, and some of its key advantages. In addition, you will find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about mediation.
Mediation at a Glance
Mediation is often compared to arbitration, and the two are similar in many ways. But while arbitration is more akin to a trial, leading to a decision by a third party, mediation is more of an interactive negotiation by the third party. In fact, the two parties are ultimately responsible for exchanging information, bargaining, and eventually coming up with a solution or a series of steps in order to resolve the dispute. The third party mediator doesn't decide for them, but rather helps interpret concerns, relay issues, define problems, and encourage solutions.
Once a resolution is reached and agreed to by the parties, it typically carries the weight of a legally valid contract (but this often depends on the particular law or jurisdiction). Some mediations become court judgments. But if an agreement is not reached, the parties may pursue arbitration or a lawsuit.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Mediation
Sometimes lawsuits are the only way to resolve a dispute, particularly when the parties are unwilling to compromise or even communicate directly with one another. But if there's a chance an amicable agreement may be reached, mediation has many advantages over traditional lawsuits. Ultimately, the parties have much more control over the process. Advantages of mediation over traditional civil actions include the following:
While mediation is a particularly effective means of resolving disputes out of court, particularly those involving close or complex relationships, it has certain disadvantages. Generally, the disadvantages of mediation vs. traditional lawsuits include the following:
Mediation: General Procedures
To find a mediator, you can go through the American Arbitration Association or other third party services. These organizations typically have a process in place, such as an intake form and a mediator selection protocol. Once the mediation is set up, the process involves six distinct steps:
For more information about mediation, select a link from the list below.