Mediation and arbitration are both methods to resolve disputes out of court. However, the similarities end there. In arbitration, the proceeding is governed by an arbitrator who hears testimony and otherwise reviews evidence, like a trial. The arbitrator then makes a decision as to which party prevails.
By contrast, in mediation, a mediator oversees the process, but he/she does not take evidence or make a ruling. Instead, a mediator, using conflict resolution skills, helps parties reach their own agreements. The resulting agreements are binding, if the parties want them to be. While mediation may seem, by its description, to be a haphazard process, in fact, it is highly successful. The American Arbitration Association has found that mediation results in settlement over 85 percent of the time. Skilled mediators help people determine their true interests and then make realistic offers. In addition, because the process involves communication and does not render one party a “winner” and one party a “loser,” mediation often allows parties in conflict to salvage their relationships. Mediation is also a more relaxed process and, consequently, less stressful. One may mediate at any point; one need not collect evidence or retain attorneys prior to initiating mediation.
Some people combine the process in what is called “Med-Arb.” That means the parties start mediating a dispute and then switch to arbitration (using the mediator as an arbitrator) if they are unable to reach an agreement.
Before deciding what process is best for you, it is wise to talk to a mediator, an arbitrator and/or an attorney.
Alona M. Gottfried is a mediator and attorney in Arizona. If you have questions about mediation, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.
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