The American Bar Association has designated the week of October 16-22, 2011 as national “Mediation Week.” Governor Robert Bentley signed a Proclamation declaring October 21, 2011 as “Mediation Day” across the State of Alabama. So what? Why should Alabama businesses and consumers care about such things?
They should care because mediation provides them a more cost-effective, time efficient and comprehensive way to resolve disputes than litigation. According to the Alabama Administrative Office of Courts, last year over 37,000 civil cases and 5,000 divorce related cases were filed in Jefferson County. This does not include the backlog of already pending cases. With State court cutbacks and the never-ending battle over Jefferson County’s finances, the court system in Jefferson County is bursting at the seams. The costs for litigation increase as cases have to wait longer for trial dates – not to mention the increased stress on the parties as their disputes drag on. Mediation provides a better path to resolution.
So how does mediation work? The mediator (a neutral third party) provides a forum for open communication and guides the parties’ negotiations so that they reach an informed and mutually acceptable result to their dispute. By agreeing to mediate, the parties use their intimate knowledge of the situation to reach a solution that is tailored to their needs. Advantages of mediation:
- A “win-win” for the participants – not a decision by a judge or jury
- Less expensive than litigation
- Promotes continued relationships
- Moves more quickly than litigation – and usually with less stress
- Confidentiality—no public record
- Scheduled to the convenience of the parties
- Clarity and mutual understanding of the results achieved
Mediation is a very effective tool for resolving:
- Civil lawsuits - including personal injury claims, consumer disputes, breach of contract, fraud claims and other similar matters
- Family law disputes such as divorce, child custody and support issues
- Estate, probate and elder care disputes
- Employment disputes
- Business-related disputes
- Disputes between neighbors or within a community
Mediation is not arbitration, nor is it a trial. The mediator is not making a decision for the disputing parties. The mediator guides the parties to reach their own decision, and promotes respect and dignity for all participants. Statistics show that when parties to a dispute actively participate in crafting its resolution, they are more satisfied with the outcome and are more likely to abide by its terms. Mediation truly provides a win-win for the participants.
Difficult times require creative solutions. I am encouraged by the efforts of the ABA and Governor Bentley in promoting mediation. The public needs to know that there are more civil, more cost effective, faster and less destructive ways to resolve disputes than lengthy litigation. Mediation gives the people involved a chance to shape a resolution that fits their specific needs in a creative and constructive way, with neither side ending up on the wrong side of a judgment. I hope the people of Alabama take the time to explore their options before racing to the courthouse.