Frequently Asked Questions  

Q: Why should I consider mediation?
A: You should consider mediation because it is inexpensive, efficient, and promotes a resolution that is created by the parties themselves.  When the parties control the process, they are generally more invested in it and its outcome.  Being completely voluntary, mediation allows everyone at the table to “win” by allowing each party to express him/herself;  participate in the process and the outcome;  engage in finding solutions with which everyone can live;  and share information.
Q: What, exactly, does the mediator do?
A: The mediator facilitates the discussion between the parties and encourages brainstorming ideas.  Interpreting issues, providing assistance in communication, exploring potential solutions, and finding areas of consensus are some of the methods used by a mediator.  Parties must agree to simple ground rules that include a commitment to listening, expressing differences, and avoiding interrupting the other party.  The mediator may caucus, or meet individually, with each side during the process to gain a better understanding of a position or issue.  The mediator will help the parties define the problem, gain an understanding of the issue, create options, and choose which options are best for the parties in their particular circumstances.
Q: How much does it cost and how long does it take?
A: The cost depends upon how long it takes to reach agreement and depends upon the facts and circumstances of the issues presented.  Mediation is billed hourly.  A simple dispute may be resolved in an hour or less;  a more complex dispute may take multiple sessions.
Q: Do I need an attorney?
A: Parties may bring counsel if they choose but it is not necessary.  Although mediation is binding, parties are not required to agree to anything without first consulting with their respective attorneys.  Deference to the attorneys’ preference to participate is encouraged.
Q: What if we don’t settle?
A: If parties do not settle in mediation, they are free to pursue other methods of dispute resolution, including arbitration or litigation.  However, they will be better prepared to do so after communicating with each other through the mediation process.  While not every case is right for mediation and not every case settles, statistics show success regardless of the type of dispute involved.  For example, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports 70% of its mediated cases settle;  the federal Courts of Appeal show a 53% success rate for cases already litigated and then on appeal.  The State of Michigan has seen a success rate of 67%, or two-thirds, of cases that mediate.
Q: What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?
A: Arbitration is more common in commercial settings, although mediation is growing.  Arbitration is a process in which the parties present their respective positions, evidence and arguments to a third party (the Arbiter, or Arbitrator).  The Arbitrator then makes a decision which is binding upon the parties.  In mediation, the same process is employed but the mediator never makes a decision.  Rather, the mediator assists the parties in reaching a consensus.

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