Whether it is about family matters, business or a private battle with a neighbor, there comes a time in many disputes when working through to the resolution requires the involvement of third parties.
When people have lost the ability to constructively deal with the issues that divide them, there are many resources to which they may turn. Mutual friends, family members, neighbors or associates, pastors and counselors are sources for help in working things out. These sources can be effective in an informal setting that, if successful, can result in the dispute ending with little or no record or notice to others and an amicable conclusion.
If the matter has gone beyond the point where such an informal approach can be found, many folks seek formal solutions through the legal system and governmental enforcement of their position. Here, the actors to whom they most commonly turn are police or other governmental regulators such as code enforcement officers; or they may turn to lawyers and through lawyers to judges. These resources can provide a solution that may be imposed on one or both sides of the dispute through formal processes and in many cases these solutions are the only way to reach a resolution.
However, starting such formal processes represents an escalation of the gravity of the situation and thus, more difficulty in concluding the matter; as well as giving up virtually all control of the outcome.
When the point has come that an informal approach can not work, turning to a mediator before making the leap into the legal system is becoming more and more attractive. Where the leap has been made, the mediator can provide an interim step that can find resolution short of further legal proceedings; softening the impact of the escalation that has occurred and giving back to the parties control over the outcome of the situation.
A mediator is a resource that can be very effective in finding the resolution of the dispute, short of the formal processes, thus avoiding the escalation problem; or that can get it resolved and move into the formal process to validate the solution without the risk of not knowing what the end result will be.
Mediators are trained neutral professionals, many with significant experience and broad backgrounds, who meet with the parties all together, and sometimes with the parties separately. The mediator will separate the issues and facts that are in dispute from those issues and facts about which there is not a dispute. In doing so the mediator can listen to all of the matters that each party feels is important without the impairment of strict evidence rules. This allows the mediator to focus the parties on what their interests are, not on who’s right and who’s wrong, and how they can best pursue their interests.
In mediation settlement options are discussed and developed with an eye toward meeting each party’s goals and interests. The discussions are confidential and conclude when an agreement is reached or, after hard work and thorough analysis by the parties at the urging of the mediator, the parties cannot come to an agreement. In the majority of cases an agreement is reached and the dispute is resolved without any record of what was said and done in reaching the agreement.
If you are in a dispute with a spouse, a neighbor, a condominium association, a business associate, competitor or customer; whether it has come to legal action or not, give strong consideration to the many advantages of mediation. Those advantages are:
■ The people in a conflict control the outcome of their dispute, not a judge or jury.
■ Any issue between people can be discussed and resolved, whether or not it is part of a lawsuit.
■ Mediation promotes communication and cooperation.
■ Mediation is less expensive than litigation.
■ Mediation teaches people how to negotiate, a skill that can be used in future problem resolution.
■ Mediation is confidential, personal problems are not aired publicly.
■ Mediation is usually quicker and more efficient than the trial process.
■ Mediation allows individuals to tailor solutions to best meet their needs.
Putting those advantages to work for you just may be the way to find the “win, win” solution for which you have been searching. It could be just what is needed to put all the stress behind you and let you move on.
The Florida Supreme Court certifies mediators through its Dispute Resolution Center whose web site can be found at: http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/adr/index.shtml.
To find a mediator click on: “Mediator search.”
David M. Abercrombie is certified by the Florida Supreme Court as a County, Circuit Civil and Family Mediator. His experience includes nearly 30 years practicing law in Washington State and Hawaii. He resides on Marco Island where he conducts his mediation practice in the Sun Trust Building. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.