I have just been ordered to mediation! What does that mean?

Courts are frequently ordering mediation before you can go to trial. Many people have never experienced alternative dispute resoluation and don’t know what it is. It is separate from a trial. It is a time to sit down with a mediator – a neutral third party who doesn’t have a stake in the outcome – and discuss possible resolutions to the conflict. Mediators can be employed by the court or can be private mediators. Mediation is an opportunity to hear your opponent’s side of the conflict and be creative in coming to a resolution. Sometimes this is the first time that you can hear the other person’s story. This process often brings new facts to light, which helps people resolve their dispute. It also gives parties control over the outcome. The disadvantage of having a judge resolve a dispute is that the judge can only rule for one party and they can only enter orders allowed under law. There is always a risk in going to court. Mediation helps parties control that risk by having control over the outcome.

Some people dislike mediation because they may have already tried to resolve the issue themselves and think it is hopeless. However, there is something advantageous about having to tell your side of the dispute to a third party. People are usually better behaved and don’t shout or interrupt the other person when there is a third party present. The mediator listens to both sides equally and asks questions to try to narrow the disputed issues. The mediator will control the discussion and can intervene and talk to one party separately if necessary. Sometimes the conflict is centered around emotional issues, such as hurt feelings or anger, completely separate from the legal issues that are the source of the complaint. A skilled mediator can seek to address those emotional issues and see if there can be resolution of those issues as well as the legal issues. I have seen the parties noticeably soften, once the conflict is resolved, and begin talking to each other after mediation. They would hardly look at the other person when the discussion started, but afterwards they are able to look the other person directly in the eye and have a normal conversation. This rarely happens in a courtroom. When the judge issues the order of the Court, people usually leave without talking to each other. After a trial, both parties are unhappy because the outcome was not what they hoped for. So be open about mediation and go ready to mediate in good faith. You might be surprised at the positive outcome.

By Terry Ehrlich, Esq. /Mediation.shtml