I have heard several judges talk about the value of mediation. And most often it’s about the benefits of having parties sit down prior to going to court and coming to an agreement. Sure … this saves the court time and money and opens up the calendar for cases that really need to be litigated.

I have also heard some judges say that even when parties do not come to an agreement, there is still value in the process.

What do they mean?

The Lines of Communication are Opened and Information is Exchanged

You never know when someone hears something differently than they understood it before. And that can only happen when people are communicating. Courtrooms are not conducive for that. Mediation rooms are.

Even if a mediation doesn’t result in agreement, participants have a chance to hear the other person’s perspective and discuss their own. They can focus and refine their own arguments which helps later in court. It also saves the judge time working through the issues.

Emotions are Expressed

“Order in the Court” … that’s what you hear if emotions are expressed in court (with the pounding of the gavel). In mediation, emotions happen all the time. Often externally (crying, loud exasperated sighs) and also internally (as a mediator, you just know that something is going on). Expressing these emotions helps because they are no longer bottled up and can lead to a more orderly court hearing.

Expectations of the Parties are Tested

Sometimes parties are ready to talk, yet they’re not ready to deal. Being in mediation before a court date gives them the opportunity to evaluate their case better. How far are the parties apart? What are the value and merits each case? The time between the mediation and the court hearing can present a valuable “thinking” period.

Thank-you to those judges who still consider a mediation “impasse” as helpful and not a necessarily a failure.


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