When people disagree, the traditional legal method for resolving such disputes has usually been a lawsuit, and a trial in a courtroom before a judge (and perhaps judge and jury). However, this courtroom process is almost always a long and expensive process. It almost always makes the parties more bitter towards each other than they were before.  Lawsuits create winners and losers.  Especially where there will be a continuing relationship between the parties (as in a divorce that involves minor children), having one party be a “winner” and the other party a “loser” is hardly a recipe for harmonious future relationships.

As a result, in recent years, forms of “alternative dispute resolution” (ADR) have become more common. The two most significant forms of ADR are arbitration and mediation.  Each of these forms of “alternative dispute resolution” is almost always less expensive, less time consuming, and more sensitive to the continuing relationship between the parties, than a courtroom battle.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is mediation? Mediation is a non-judicial (“out of court”) process in which the parties to a dispute use an independent third party, called a “mediator”, to attempt to resolve the issues between them. The mediator is independent of the parties, and does not take sides in the dispute.  The mediator works to see if the parties, by focusing on the issues with the mediator’s help, can come to an agreement.  The mediator does not have any power to decide the dispute; that power remains with the two parties at all times.

How much does mediation cost?  Each mediator sets their own fees.  However, the costs for mediation are typically less expensive than resolving the same dispute in court.

Can parties be forced to go to mediation?  Mediation requires the voluntary agreement of both parties.  Thus, neither party can be forced to agree to certain terms in mediation.  However, in some cases mediation can be required, either by state law or court rules, or by a contract the parties made at an earlier time.  For example, the Illinois Supreme Court has adopted Supreme Court Rules making mediation mandatory in all cases where there are unresolved issues involving the care of minor children in the event of the dissolution of a marriage.