Understanding What Is Right For You: Mediation vs. Arbitration

Legal disputes are normally settled in one of three legal fashions. Those are litigation, mediation, and arbitration. Litigation is the court process most individuals consider initially, which is essentially one party filing suit against another party. Divorce cases are a prime example of how each process can be implemented. Actually, many states now encourage all potential lawsuits to complete a mediation phase to determine if court can be avoided in any manner. But, sometimes the mediation talks can break down and result in consideration of advancing to arbitration when one party wants the decision from a neutral third party without taking the case directly to court.

Mediators are usually attorneys who understand the parameters of the law with respect to the legal issues, but also understand that a mutual agreement could provide a better result for both parties. Mediation gives each party an informal platform to discuss differences and suggest agreeable points that could result in a palatable deal for each side. One side of a legal dispute rarely gets everything they are asking for unless the case goes before a judge and has total merit. Disputes are rarely that egregious in material case facts, and mediation is often the most viable settlement option. Mediators do not force an agreement, as this is largely a legal initiation step that can produce a reasonable and cost-effective result. The decision is only binding when everyone agrees and signs the agreement.

Arbitration is not as simple or informal as mediation. In an arbitration proceeding, each party will choose an arbitrator, and then those two arbitrators will choose a third neutral party. The decision is determined by a vote after considerable evaluation of the evidence, with a majority rule. The arbitrators do not necessarily serve as attorneys for each party, even though they were chosen personally by each party. Arbitration rulings are binding and, more importantly, cannot be appealed or reversed. Many disputes proceed to an open court process when either party is afraid an arbitration decision will not be in their favor.

One of the most important aspects of deciding which legal process to employ is finding an experienced and effective agency that is focused primarily on mediation or arbitration services. Most solid arbitration services will have attorneys or conflict resolution specialists who understand the intricacies of agreement negotiation and how the final application of the law could impact an agreement. It is important to remember that the real purpose of potential litigation is arriving at an equitable resolution where all parties can avoid the expensive prospect of actually taking a dispute to trial. The difference in expense alone can often be the deciding factor.

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