Mediation is cost-effective. Lawsuits involve attorneys’ fees and court costs. In addition, trials require extended preparation and may span days. Mediation costs less than litigation. Mediators charge less per hour for their professional service. Mediation requires less preparation and avoids the delays of a trial. Moreover, a mediation session typically last three hours. Compared to legal battles or prolonged conflict, mediation saves money and time.
In mediation, the parties retain control. At the conclusion of a trial, the judge decides the outcome without input from the parties. In contrast, parties to mediation are the decision-makers. They meet solely to resolve their dispute, and they actively participate throughout the process. Further, the parties are free to consider options other than monetary damages, which increases the chances of obtaining an outcome that successfully resolves the conflict. In mediation, the parties chart their own future.
Mediation yields positive outcomes. The mere filing of a lawsuit may destroy relationships, and the court’s ruling may award monetary damages while failing to address the issues underlying the conflict between the parties. Mediation preserves and in some cases enhances relationships, because the parties communicate directly about their differences. Concord Center’s Executive Director, Cindy Tierney, agrees, saying, “Mediators understand and use a process that guides parties through a deeper understanding of the other person’s perspective. Once that understanding occurs parties are more open to resolution.” Mediation results in an agreement based on the satisfaction of both parties and the protection of their interests. When the parties listen to each other and agree about how to resolve their conflict, mediation creates a win/win situation.
Mediation is confidential and private. Information revealed in a trial becomes public record. Outside the courtroom, conflict is a favorite topic of neighborhood gossip, on-line chatter and television news. Mediation typically occurs behind closed doors at a private office. Information shared by the parties during mediation cannot be used as evidence in a trial. The mediation session isn’t recorded in any transcript, and mediators cannot disclose any details about the mediation. For anyone from couples in high-profile divorces to businesses in the public eye, mediation provides a confidential forum for resolving disputes.
Mediation is a voluntary process. In court, parties may compel each other to participate by way of a subpoena or the fear of a default judgment. At any time during mediation, one or both parties may choose not to participate. An agreement cannot be imposed on either party in mediation. Throughout the mediation process, the parties are free to participate, and the power to decide belongs to the parties.
According to long time mediator, Marshall Johnson, mediation opens communication. “Many times a person’s fear of the conflict is greater than the actual conflict itself. The lack of communication (sometimes for months) between two people freezes them emotionally into place and they can’t imagine on their own how to proceed. Or frustration has grown because attempts at communication between the parties always escalate out of control. Mediators temper the frustration, anger and fear that many times trap people in conflict. The mediator’s willingness to enter the parties’ conflict without becoming anxious about the emotions allows them to help break through many impasses.”
Mediation provides an informal process for resolving conflict. When parties go to court, specific rules dictate the proceedings from start to finish. A mediation session takes place around the table in an ordinary office. Mediators introduce an agenda for the mediation session that provides the space for parties to work out their own solutions. Mediation occurs through conversation in a safe environment without the formalities of a trial.