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Mediation: a different way to solve disputes

By Jessica Slater

The thought of going to court is a daunting one for most. It can be an incredibly stressful and expensive process, and more importantly, there is always a risk that you will lose. But fear not, there are other ways of resolving disputes without going to court know as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). In fact the courts now actively encourage parties to participate in ADR before going to trial. So much so, they even have the power to penalise a party who unreasonably refuses to engage in ADR.

What is mediation?

One of the most effective and popular means of ADR is mediation. Mediation is a flexible process which involves negotiation between parties through an independent third party – known as a mediator. Each party has their own room in which they can speak with their lawyers in confidence. Throughout the session the mediator will move between the rooms conveying information from one party to the other.  The main purpose of mediation is to encourage parties to reach an amicable settlement without the hostility and confrontation of a court environment.

So why choose mediation?

  • Flexibility – Mediation is a flexible process which can be tailored to suit the nature of the dispute and the wishes of the parties.  At no point would you be required to see, speak or interact with the other party should you wish not to. That being said, it is often effective for parties to engage in an open board meeting which allows opinions to be aired in an informal but legal environment. This can be particularly effective if the dispute involves a family feud as it helps prevent the ill feeling and hurt which often follows court proceedings.
  • Costs – Litigation is very expensive and generally the longer the matter goes on for, the larger the bill. Mediation is a far cheaper alternative and the costs are agreed beforehand based on the length of the session and the facilities hired. In addition, such costs are usually shared equally between the parties, unlike litigation where the court has discretion to make costs orders.
  • Speed – Court proceedings are notoriously slow and it is likely to take many months, if not years, for a matter to reach a final hearing. Mediation is invariably much quicker providing that the parties can agree a mutually convenient date.
  • Control - The great thing about mediation is that you have total control of the situation. You are not at the mercy of the court and the settlement can be tailored to suit the parties. Furthermore, you have the option to walk away if an amicable settlement is not reached.

But what if mediation isn’t successful?

The effectiveness of mediation will largely depend on each parties’ willingness to engage with the process and there is no guarantee that a settlement will be reached. Even if a settlement isn’t achieved, all is not lost. Mediation is an effective way of narrowing the issues in dispute should the matter end up at trial, and this will invariably save time and costs further down the line.

In conclusion, mediation is an effective means of settling a dispute and it can save a lot of time, money and stress.

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