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How Does Mediation Work?

Because mediation can be such an effective method of resolving a dispute, many judges will not assign a trial date until the parties have tried using mediation to avoid having a decision made by a judge or jury. Through reading, serving on a jury, or watching a court drama, most people have some experience with how the court system works. But mediation is rarely talked about or presented. This is unfortunate, considering that it can be so much more effective – and less expensive than pursuing a court case.

Mediation can proceed differently based on the individual situation. Here are some elements common to the mediation process in many situations:

Selecting a mediator: Both parties agree on a professionally trained mediator. If the parties cannot agree, the Court would appoint one if there is litigation.

Preparing for the mediation session: Parties to the mediation may submit statements and documents to the mediator prior to the formal meeting to help the mediator understand the problems and issues.

Setting the meeting schedule: One of the benefits of mediation is that the meetings don’t need to include a judge, so they are not dependent on a judge’s schedule and can accommodate the parties’ schedules.

At the mediation meeting: The mediator introduces their role, outlines the role of the participants, and establishes ground rules for the meeting. The goal is to create a collaborative environment so that both parties feel comfortable sharing viewpoints in a confidential setting.

The mediator will often give each side the opportunity to share their side of the issue/problem. The mediator is listening for possible ways to solve the problem. Normally, the parties would divide into separate rooms and the mediator would shuttle between the parties to attempt to obtain a settlement.

The mediator asks follow-up questions to check for understanding and build confidence in both parties that he understands the issues and can help them come to an agreement.

Reaching an agreement: With an understanding of the major issues, the mediator helps the parties consider potential solutions. He normally meets with the parties separately to review suggested solutions and get feedback.

Documenting the agreement: If the parties can reach a settlement, the mediator prepares an agreement document that both parties and their attorneys sign. That settlement agreement can be made into a more formal agreement, submitted as an order for the court to consider and sign, or simply be between the parties. The mediator then notifies that Court that there is either a full or partial settlement. no settlement is reached, the mediator also notifies the Court.

Shelbourne Law offers mediation services throughout Charleston, Dorchester, Colleton and Berkeley counties. To learn more about mediation as an alternative to litigation in your dispute, please call our office in Summerville at 843-871-2210.

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