Mediation is a non-adversarial process that helps disputants come to an agreement on a mutually acceptable resolution to their dispute. Mediators can be hired by individuals, businesses or by courts as part of an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program. The benefits of mediation include a lower cost, less time in court, preservation of business and personal relationships, confidentiality and a quicker resolution.
The Mediation Services division offers community mediation, workplace, family and neighborhood mediation, peer mediation and conciliation services to local citizens and businesses. This is a partnership between the County and private sector providers that offer mediation services to individuals, businesses or local government entities in need of assistance in resolving conflict and disputes without the high costs of litigation.
Typically, disputants choose mediation to resolve disputes rather than filing a lawsuit in Court. However, if it is clear that a settlement is not going to be reached through the mediation process, then litigation may be appropriate. Regardless, parties are encouraged to discuss mediation and other ADR options with their lawyers.
A mediator is trained to facilitate communication between the disputants and help them identify their needs and interests. Often, disputants in conflict find that working with a neutral facilitator allows them to look outside of the “box” of their stated positions and explore more options for resolution.
During the mediation, the mediator meets with each party privately to hear their side of the story. This phase is important for establishing a productive tone and mood that encourages discussion of underlying issues in the dispute.
The mediator will then use his or her skills to generate options for resolution, helping the parties find creative solutions. Once a mutually satisfactory solution is reached, the parties will work together to draft a written agreement. The mediator will then review the agreement with the parties and assist them in implementing it.
If a party decides to proceed with a lawsuit, the mediator will provide the parties with a report of the session and the outcome of the mediation. Depending on the nature of the case, the mediator may also prepare a summary of the issues and recommend a course of action.
Although the success of mediation is not guaranteed, it is generally a better choice than going to Court. However, a dispute should only be subject to mediation if it is not in the public interest or if a court remedy is necessary such as an injunction or specific performance. In addition, the Court should make sure that the dispute is ripe for mediation and that the participants are willing to compromise. In cases where the parties are unable to reach a settlement through mediation, the Court may order a mediation information and assessment meeting to be held before hearing a case in Court. This is done in the interest of preserving a relationship between the parties and reducing hostility.