Litigation is costly and expensive. This is why many people are eager to avoid going to court in the first place. But there are alternatives to litigation when it comes to resolving a legal dispute. One such alternative is mediation.
What Exactly Is Mediation?
In simple terms, mediation is when the parties meet with each other and a neutral third party, i.e., a mediator to try to resolve their dispute. A mediator is different from a judge or an arbitrator. A judge or an arbitrator will actually hear evidence and legal argument, then make a determination about the outcome of the dispute in favor of one party or the other… In contrast, the mediator is only there to listen and facilitate an agreed upon resolution. The mediator does not make any judgment or determination, rather the parties determine the outcome in the form of a negotiated settlement that is facilitated by the mediator.
What Are the Benefits of Mediation?
Unlike litigation, which is a matter of public record, mediation is private and generally everything that is done or said at a mediation is confidential. Indeed, if your mediation is ordered by a judge–more on that later–then Florida law imposes a duty of confidentiality. That said, if mediation results in a signed agreement, that deal may still need to be approved by a court on the public record depending on the nature of the case and parties agreement.
If mediation does result in an agreement, that is usually to the benefit of all sides, as there is no need to proceed with formal litigation. This saves everyone time and money. It also removes the risk and uncertainty of litigation. In other words, even if you are confident that you could prevail in a trial or arbitration, it is impossible to know for certain what a jury, a judge, or arbitrator might decide. Mediation thus allows you to retain greater control over the outcome of your dispute. Litigation most often is an “all or nothing” proposition. Mediation allows the parties to come to a compromise that might not be possible in litigation, and retain a sense of self determination
Can a Judge Require Mediation?
Yes, Florida law outlines a number of scenarios where a court may order the parties to mediate. Court ordered mediation is quite common in a variety of cases, including family law disputes, personal injury disputes, employment disputes, construction and real estate disputes and commercial business disputes.
In some cases, especially business disputes, the parties may also have a signed contract that requires mediation in the event of a claim by one of the parties.
How Does Mediation Work?
Mediation is not a trial. Each party may be represented by an attorney, however, and those lawyers may present arguments on behalf of their clients. But unlike a trial, each party and their attorney may also speak separately with the mediator–a process known as a caucus–and once again, the goal is for both sides to reach a voluntary agreement.
Mediation basically has three possible outcomes. First, the parties reach a signed agreement. Second, the mediator declares an “impasse” because both parties are unwilling to continue. Third, the mediator and the parties agree to break for now and resume mediation at a later time.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
While mediation can provide a less stressful alternative to a courtroom trial, that does not mean you should go at it alone. An experienced attorney with expertise in civil, family or commercial matters can advise you throughout the process and represent your best interests. So if you need legal advice, contact Older Lundy Koch & Martino today to schedule a consultation.