What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as a way of bringing about a resolution to a dispute that involves two or more parties. When the parties involved can no longer negotiate or realize they cannot come to an agreed-upon settlement, a separate party, the mediator, works with each party involved to reach an agreement or settlement. The mediator is not a ruling party or judge, and the person does not take sides. Instead, a mediator helps the involved parties come to a settlement that is mutually satisfying. The Gainesville attorneys of Warner, Sechrest & Butts, P.A. practice in many mediation forums.
Advantages Of Mediation
Many cases never proceed to trial. When appropriate, a lawyer may recommend mediation as a way to resolve a dispute in order to reach an agreement more quickly, to save a client money, to reach a fair agreement, and to keep matters private.
Mediation is able to move more quickly than a trial because there are fewer people involved and a courtroom is not necessary. Judges are kept quite busy, which can lead cases to drag on for years. Generally, mediation cases are resolved within a few months, but some can be settled within weeks.
Is Mediation Better Than Going To Trial?
An attorney may recommend mediation as a way to resolve a client's dispute if the client has financial instability. Because mediation does not take as long as a court case, lawyers do not need to be retained as long, lowering the bill for the client. There are also other court fees associated with a prolonged trial, and many people find themselves on the brink of bankruptcy by the time a lawsuit has concluded. The attorneys at Warner, Sechrest & Butts, P.A. will never force a client to trial if mediation law could provide a better and more financially sound outcome.
When it comes to disputes, each party understandably wants to be treated fairly. That is a main concern for mediation as many parties involved know each other. Mediation can help keep relationships intact when a job or personal relationship is on the line. Court cases have a way of ruining ties with co-workers, neighbors and even family members. But when each party feels that a fair settlement has been reached, the bitterness and negative feelings one might harbor are often pushed aside for the betterment of the personal or business relationship going forward. Clients rarely feel the need for retribution when they feel a fair agreement has been reached.
Confidentiality is a major factor in deciding upon mediation. Court cases are often public, and even if a verdict is sealed, the fact that a client spent years in court can still be a matter of public record. With mediation, clients can work on a settlement privately with only those who are involved directly. Conversations that occur during mediation legally must be kept private and may not be used in later court cases. This level of confidentiality may prove helpful in allowing all parties involved to move on after the settlement.
Can My Case Be Mediated?
At Warner, Sechrest & Butts, P.A., we know that each case is unique to the parties involved. We work with our clients to provide the best counseling about whether your case is better suited to trial or mediation.
Civil disputes are the most common type of cases that are mediated with Warner, Sechrest & Butts, P.A. These often involve disputes of employment, contracts, leases, business ownership, real estate claims, and customer-business conflicts, and can be better served by mediation due to the speedy process and confidentiality generally associated with mediation.
Disputes with co-workers, neighbors, spouses, family members, roommates and friends generally benefit from mediation. In court cases, only relevant evidence may be considered, but in mediation, all factors pertaining to the event or issue can be discussed. This may lead to several outstanding issues being resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, rather than having one winner and one loser like in a court case.
Non-violent cases, such as those involving harassment, often lead to successful mediation.
The Mediation Process
There are six steps to mediation, and though it is less formal than a court trial, there is a specific process that must be followed.
- Introductory Remarks: All parties, their representation, and the mediator gather in a neutral place so that neither party feels threatened. The mediator begins the process by introducing the parties, stating the rules and intended outcome of the process, and encourages the parties to work amicably toward an agreed settlement. The mediator will also set protocols and time frames for the mediation process.
- Statement of the Problem: Once the opening remarks have concluded, each party will have the opportunity to state their side of the issue without interruption. Generally, the party that requested the process will begin. The client's lawyer may speak first, but the mediator will ask the client to speak as well. This step in mediation provides each party a chance to pose the issue in their own words, often revealing underlying emotions and other issues that may have affected the situation at hand.
- Information Gathering: Mediators will ask open-ended questions to flesh out the issue and try to identify underlying problems or concerns. It also provides the mediator a chance to build a rapport with the parties in order to more easily arrive at a settlement.
- Private Caucus: During a private caucus, each party meets with the mediator without the other party/parties present. The mediator may propose solutions to see what kind of agreement the client is open to. Parties may meet privately with the mediator multiple times before this stage is complete.
- Bargaining: This brainstorming session often results in a proposal that both parties are able to modify. It takes into account the information gathered during the private caucus to find points of agreement. During this stage, a final settlement is proposed.
- Reaching an Agreement or Impasse: When all parties involved agree on the resolution of their dispute, a settlement is reached. Unfortunately, mediation may not reach an agreement. When parties cannot settle their dispute, an impasse is reached.
Gainesville Mediation Attorneys
At Warner, Sechrest & Butts, we want to help you reach an amicable and fair resolution to your case. If you're wondering when to use mediation, contact us at our Gainesville law firm and we'll help you determine if your case is optimal for mediation.