Many individuals are unclear on the difference between mediation and arbitration in the legal process. Both are alternatives for resolving disputes outside of court; however they are different processes for conflict resolution.
An impartial mediator listens to the evidence of each party and then arranges meetings to work toward resolution. Mediators are usually attorneys and use their legal expertise to offer possible compromises and solutions in an attempt to settle the case out of court.
Important things to note about mediation:
- If a mutual settlement cannot be reached, either party can still take the case to trial
- Mediation is not an option for cases that involve criminal activity
- Common types of cases include property settlements, family disputes, employee/employer disputes, business disputes, and personal injury
- A mediator is appointed to act as a referee and to highlight legalities, but the final outcome must be mutually agreed upon by the parties involved
Arbitration is similar to a court trial. The parties plead their arguments to the arbitrator, who then makes a decision. Whether the decision is binding is decided upon prior to the arbitration process by the dispute parties. Arbitrators are typically retired judges or highly experienced lawyers.
Important things to note about arbitration:
- Parties often use arbitration as a prerequisite to a trial to obtain an arbitrator’s view and possibly predict how a court case might turn out
- Parties must agree beforehand whether the arbitrator’s decision is binding
- Arbitration is more formal than mediation; it is much like the actual court process
Mediation and Arbitration – Court Alternatives
The major difference is, ultimately, who decides the outcome. Arbitration may or may not be final depending on both parties’ decisions prior to the process. The mediation outcome resides with the disputing parties as to whether they can come up with a mutually agreeable solution.
Both mediation and arbitration can be effective alternatives for resolving disputes, and they both generally save time, expense, and the stress associated with a court trial.