Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that allows parties to sort out their disputes with the help of a neutral third party who oversees the entire process. This form of dispute resolution is more flexible than traditional litigation. As such, mediation allows parties to employ unique problem solving methods that fit the specific circumstances of the case. By going to mediation to solve legal disputes, parties are able to avoid the costs and difficulties of litigation.
Mediation is unique in that the resolution the parties reach is generally nonbinding. The mediation is only meant to facilitate communications between the parties and allow them to implement pragmatic solutions. However, the parties may participate in binding mediation by virtue of a court order or contractual obligation. Additionally, formal rules of evidence or procedure do not apply in mediation. The parties are free to establish the parameters of their discussions so they can mold a system that is most conducive to finding a feasible solution. In the absence of formal rules, the involved parties may be able to produce evidence and follow procedures that would not otherwise be acceptable in litigation.
Mediation is especially useful and prominent in family law disputes. However, mediation can also be an alternative form of dispute resolution for small businesses with legal problems. Since small businesses do not always have the same resources as large corporations to litigate endlessly, small businesses can benefit greatly from utilizing the efficient resolution techniques inherent in mediation. Conflicts relating to neighbors, government ordinances, employees, business vendors, and business partners can be quickly resolved through mediation rather than through longer and more expensive litigation through the court system. Meanwhile, through mediation, small business owners can save time and resources while still reaching a solution for conflicts.
Mediation is especially effective as a form of conflict resolution because the parties equally contribute to finding a mutually-beneficial resolution, so they are more likely to follow their solution in the future. In the case of court judgments, the parties often have to dedicate further time and resources to force the opposing party to fulfill the judgment. In addition, once the parties reach a mutually-beneficial resolution, they establish a problem-solving relationship with open communication that allows them to settle future disputes.
In general, choosing mediation to resolve legal disputes is cost efficient. The parties may access lost-cost mediation services through local court programs or bar associations. Further, the parties generally split the costs of mediation. In the case of litigation, not only does a single party bear the entire cost of litigating the case, but a court may also hold one party responsible for the opposing party’s litigation costs. Finally, mediation is a much faster process. Therefore, the total costs span a few hours, or a few days, rather than multiple months of traditional litigation in court.