There is no greater feeling than resolving conflicts without having to go to court.    What’s worse than being involved in a lawsuit? The amount of time, money, and stress that it costs you waiting for your case to go to trial, that’s what. In most courts that can take up to two or three years – two or three years AFTER you’ve filed a lawsuit. Not to mention the thousands of dollars, gray hairs, and tears that come with this long, protracted process of waiting, and waiting, and waiting. The good news is that – even if you have a very complex or complicated lawsuit – all this costly waiting can be avoided. You don’t have to wait more than a month to permanently and quickly get it over with… completely. Nope, it’s not too good to be true… it’s called mediation, and it works in just about every type of lawsuit you can imagine. Most commonly, mediation is used today in divorces, parenting and Child Support, personal injury, product liability, wrongful death, contracts, landlord-tenant, Real Estate, employment, wills and estates, intellectual property, and construction disputes (most states do not allow mediation in adoption, civil commitment, child abuse, juvenile delinquency and criminal cases). You may be wondering what mediation is and how it can end your lawsuit/dispute so effectively and efficiently. The short answer is because mediation is nothing like going to court… it’s nothing like a trial… it’s nothing like a deposition… it’s nothing like arbitration… it’s nothing like any other legal proceeding. Mediation is an informal process where the disputing parties meet with a neutral third party (mediator) who has specialized training in conducting discussions among them. During mediation, the mediator will guide the parties through the process, navigating obstacles and other obstructions to settling their case. The mediator accomplishes this by speaking privately, openly and confidentially with each party allowing them to discuss everything they want the mediator to know – what happened originally, what has happened since, and what is keeping their case from settling. While gathering this information from the parties, and gaining an understanding of what’s most important to each party, the mediator helps and encourages the parties to think differently than they have prior to coming to mediation, and consider any/all potential options for agreements. Once the parties have identified and prioritized each of their issues, the mediator shifts the focus of mediation to creative, open-minded solution creation… sometimes referred to as negotiation. The parties and the mediator will stay in this phase until each of the parties’ issues have been addressed, and mutually acceptable agreements reached. Then, in the last phase of mediation, the mediator will assist the parties and their attorneys to document their entire agreement, get the agreement signed, and conclude mediation. That’s it. Not discounting the parties’ emotions that usually accompany a lawsuit, it’s really that simple. Mediation is effective because it’s informal, it’s private, the parties make all the decisions, and most of all because it’s completely confidential. The mediator can’t tell one party what the other said unless they have each party’s permission to do so…  nor can the mediator be called as a witness to testify in their case – ever. Mediation is efficient in that it can usually be scheduled (with a private practice, certified mediator) within one month. What else makes mediation so much more efficient than all other legal proceedings is that most cases are completely settled in one day at mediation, and sometimes in just hours. Did you know that you can mediate just about any dispute before filing a lawsuit or any time during the life of a lawsuit? Yep, it’s true. Almost anything you can imagine can be mediated… criminal matters being the main exception. So, all hope is not lost just because a lawsuit has been filed. Mediation not only allows the parties to reach an effective, and long-lasting agreement to their lawsuit, but by ending the lawsuit, it puts an end to the long, drawn-out, expensive, and emotional drudgery that comes with litigating every lawsuit. So, why isn’t mediation more popular? Why don’t more people know about mediation? Why didn’t you know more about mediation before reading this blog? I believe it’s because – for decades – we have sensationalized and romanticized the courtroom. All the courtroom drama and excitement we see on TV programs and movies has convinced us that the legal world is exciting and fast-paced. While it can be exciting at times, there’s no part of the legal system that’s fast. One final note that is extremely important to know about lawsuits is that when you file a lawsuit (or a lawyer files a lawsuit on your behalf) this is what you’ve done: 1. If you have a lawyer (and I recommend that you do, always), they now represent your legal interests in that lawsuit… they speak on your behalf… which means you don’t get to speak out within the legal/judicial system as you might think; 2. In every lawsuit, there are at least two parties and two perspectives; the person(s) that files the lawsuit (bringing a legal action against someone else) is referred to – generally – as either the Plaintiff or Petitioner, and the person(s) being sued is referred to – generally – as either the Defendant or Respondent. All parties to a lawsuit have a right to defend themselves and present their own evidence. and 3. You’re telling the court (judge) that you are incapable of resolving this dispute without their intervention. Then, the slow-moving wheels of justice finally begin to turn, and then…. you wait. You wait while your lawyer gathers the necessary information to represent you; you wait while all the required documents are filed with the court; you wait until the other party responds; and, you wait until it’s your turn to be heard by the court. Remember, each judge has thousands of cases, and only so much time on their calendar… and they get sick… and they take vacations… and they have unexpected emergencies in their lives… and many other things that can delay your case from being heard. The last – and probably most important – thing to know about litigating (going to court/trial) your lawsuit, is the amount of uncertainty that comes with it. When you go to court/trial, you’re surrendering all your decision-making authority to a judge or a jury. What does that mean? It means that you are voluntarily allowing either one (the judge), or twelve complete strangers (a jury) decide the outcome of your lawsuit – your fate. But remember… there’s still very good news. Before, during and/or after a lawsuit is filed, you can stop the lengthy, expensive, and emotionally costly litigation process dead in its tracks by going to mediation and making all the decisions about the outcome of your lawsuit. The choice is yours, my friends… certainty/control (mediation), or uncertainty/no control (litigation). Choose wisely. Choose peace and satisfaction by choosing mediation.

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