What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that is available to parties involved in a legal dispute. In essence, mediation is a form of negotiation that is facilitated by a neutral third party (the mediator) – often an attorney or a former judge. The mediator does not make decisions for the parties involved, but instead provides a structured, task-oriented environment in which both parties can take a hands-on approach to come to a mutually acceptable decision pertaining to the legal issue at hand. Sometimes mediation is initiated by the parties involved, and sometimes it is compelled by the courts, by legislation, or by contractual terms.
The mediator’s role includes:
- Supervising the exchange of information between both parties
- Guiding the bargaining process
- Helping the parties find common ground
- Helping the parties let go of unrealistic expectations
- Interpreting each party’s concerns and defining existing problems
- Reframing issues
In other words, in providing mediation services, the mediator helps facilitate a resolution that both parties accept by supervising the ongoing exchange and bargaining process. An experienced mediator may also help have creative solutions on offer and often assists in drafting the final settlement.
If the parties are able to reach an agreement at mediation, they will both sign a document outlining the terms agreed upon, and that document is considered a legally binding and enforceable contract. Non-binding mediation refers to the fact that the results of the mediation hearing are only binding if both parties sign off on them. If the parties are unable to find common ground, they can pursue the matter further through the court.
Mediation can be a useful tool in many dispute situations, but there are some types in which mediation can be especially helpful, including:
- Disputes related to child custody arrangements
- Divorce disputes
- Insurance claim disputes (such as personal injury claims)
- landlord/tenant conflicts
- Disputes between family members, business partners, unions and management, or neighbors
Mediation can help effectively resolve disputes while keeping them off the court’s docket.
Why You Need a Mediation Attorney
While mediation is a hands-on process in which you can assist in the process, you are ill-advised to do so without legal counsel. Legal matters are complicated issues, and the results are naturally important to you. An attorney who is experienced with the mediation process will ensure that your best interests are well protected throughout. Further, your dedicated attorney will help you focus on those issues that are most important to you and to be more willing to compromise on those issues that are less significant in the scheme of things. Mediation is about striking a balance, and an experienced lawyer will help you accomplish this task in a manner that effectively protects your rights.
Mediation Process: What to Expect
Depending upon how complicated the case is, mediation can sometimes be completed in as little as one session. Regardless of the number of sessions, however, mediation generally a fairly informal process that follows a fairly structured path. The following steps typically occur in mediation:
- The mediator introduces the rules and the process involved in mediation
- Each party makes a statement regarding his or her interpretation of the dispute at hand
- The mediator will ask both parties questions to obtain a better understanding of the issue
- The mediator will meet with both parties privately (with their respective attorneys) to delve further into the issue and to assess potential solutions
- The mediator helps the parties hammer out a solution that they can both agree to
- If a resolution is reached, the mediator will ask both parties to sign off on the written agreement.
What Is Arbitration?
Arbitration is also a method of alternative dispute resolution that can help save time and money, but it is more binding in nature. In arbitration, the parties submit their dispute to an impartial third party – known as the arbitrator – and in so doing, they agree to be bound by and to comply with the terms that result, which will be preserved in arbitrator’s written decision. Like mediators, arbitrators are often attorneys or former judges who have the relevant experience to oversee the legal matters involved. The parties choose the arbitrator who will provide their arbitration services directly.
Many different kinds of conflicts can benefit from arbitration services, but some of the most common examples include:
- Divorce arbitration in which issues related to child custody arrangements, to the division of marital property, to child support, and to alimony are resolved
- Personal injury arbitration in which the party seeking compensation can speed up the process and generally spend less doing so
Why You Need an Arbitration Attorney
While you are ill-advised to enter into mediation without legal counsel, it is even more critical that you have an experienced arbitration attorney on your side for your arbitration hearing. While you can walk away from mediation without agreeing to anything, your arbitrator’s decisions are binding. Your rights and the outcome of your arbitration are far too important to leave to chance, and your dedicated arbitration attorney will help ensure that your best interests are protected throughout the arbitration process.
Arbitration Process: What to Expect
Like mediation, arbitration is far less formal than going to court. The arbitration process follows the state’s Arbitration Rules and Regulations and involves meetings with both parties present and private sessions with each party and their respective attorneys. Evidence is presented, witnesses give testimony, and the arbitrator asks all necessary and relevant questions of both parties before making his or her binding determination in the case.
Our In-House Arbitrator/Mediator
Retired New Jersey Superior Court Judge Joseph C. Visalli is “of counsel” to The Ferrara Law Firm, LLC, in Cherry Hill. The experience he gained over 22 years as a judge makes him extremely well qualified to serve as a mediator or arbitrator. While a judge, he presided over hundreds of jury trials and conducted thousands of settlement conferences. Judge Visalli is very well respected by both insurance companies and plaintiffs’ lawyers. His services are in high demand because he is a fair and neutral evaluator of case value and because of his ability to resolve cases favorably for both sides. Judge Visalli was an editor of the law review at the Duquesne Law School and also served as a First Lieutenant in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. To schedule a mediation or arbitration with Judge Visalli, you may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him directly at (609) 729-1749. Thank you for considering Judge Visalli for your next mediation or arbitration.