October 12, 2018

Solving Disputes through Mediation

by Edward M. Krauss, Dispute Resolution Inc.

There are alternative methods for dealing with major disagreements that don’t always need to be brought to the court. Instead, parties can be called to the table for a robust mediation that will, ideally, leave everyone feeling satisfied and heard.

The primary cast of characters for mediation includes the opposing parties and a mediator who serves as the constant neutral. As facilitator, the mediator is a results-driven optimist who doesn’t offer opinions about right or wrong, or what the best choices might be. Rather, the mediator guides those present through a process of organized problem solving in search of a parties-created resolution.

Sometimes a mediation expands to include others involved: e.g., children in a custody dispute or union reps in labor or management problems. And sometimes, the party's advocate is at the table.

Mediation is not a legal process, but the parties are still searching for an acceptable, mutually agreed-upon resolution. Mediation is not a zero-sum game. There is not a winner or a loser, but it is hoped that the parties will reach a shared settlement.

When participating in a mediation, what are the most important things to remember? First, the goal of time together is to find a final resolution. Second, only bring those documents you want to show the other parties to make sure there is a mutual understanding. The parties are thoroughly familiar with the situation; only documents that can clarify a point of misunderstanding are of value. Third, understand that mediation is an opportunity to timely and effectively reach both your own and the other parties resolution to a dispute – rather than have one imposed by a court.

When considering mediation, it is important to think in terms of saving time and energy and avoiding an ongoing ulcer. The parties have a family that needs attention, a business to run or career to advance. Mediations can be held a few weeks from the original request so timely resolution can be had. In contrast, attorneys who serve in Franklin County know how long it takes for a case to come to court.

Remember that mediators are there to provide support to the parties and that attorneys may be there to provide legal advice as necessary, but as much as possible the parties should be sharing their own perspective and talking about how they see things. Thoughtful mediation gives power to the parties to come to an enduring solution.

Edward M. Krauss is an associate member of the CBA, a mediator with twenty-one years, over three thousand hours of at-the-table experience. He specializes in financial, economic development and personnel/employment dispute resolution.