1. What is mediation?
The idea behind mediation is to take completely opposed positions and try to find some common ground. The hope is that by doing so, some sort of deal will be possible. This would allow both parties to come to a common ground.
2. When does mediation occur?
There is no specific time for mediation to occur. For instance, some custody orders require that if parents cannot agree on education, religious, medical, or other such matters, they will take their disagreement to mediation before filing any type of lawsuit. Generally, though, mediation occurs after a lawsuit has been filed and after parties have exchanged factual information. Mediation occurs before a final hearing or a jury trial.
3. What is the court's role in mediation?
In mediation, the mediator will serve as a middle party, providing an unbiased opinion and ensuring that the needs of both parties are met.
4. What types of cases use mediation?
The most prominent use of mediation occurs in family law cases, where the parties are almost always required to submit to mediation before the case can head to trial. Other types of litigation, such as automobile wrecks or commercial litigation, may involve mediation, but mediation is not required in these cases (unlike family law disputes).
5. Does mediation require preparation?
Attorneys handle mediation in different ways. Some attorneys seem to put almost no effort into preparing their clients for mediation, figuring the process is organic and preparation only messes with the chances of settlement. I take another position. I am not so concerned with the case settling as I am in making sure my clients are ultimately satisfied with any settlement reached.
6. What do you do to prepare?
To prepare my clients for mediation, I like to sit down with them and discuss what to expect. I do this to explain what goes on in the mediation and to discuss the issues and their merits. For example, if the case is about custody, I will want to discuss permutations of custody and visitation and what the other party might want. Or, if the case is an auto accident case, I would want to review with my client a plausible settlement. By explaining this, my client would have some figures to consider prior to going into meditation. This ensures that my client will be fully prepared before being pinned down on what he or she would actually be willing to accept. Additionally, I will discuss with my client the strengths and weaknesses of his or her case and the opposing party's case to make sure that we have a "game plan" plotted out before we start negotiating.
7. What is the process once mediation starts?
The parties are together in mediation for only a brief period of time. This leaves a lot of time to brainstorm when in a separate room, while the mediator is carrying my client's offer to the other party. This allows me and my client to slowly guide the exchanges of offers in a pre-anticipated direction.
8. Is an agreement reached during mediation binding?
Yes. Once you agree, you are stuck with the agreement.
9. Are mediations cost effective?
Yes. I have found that mediations conducted in the above manner are a relatively inexpensive and effective means for my clients to reach an agreement.
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