Mediation & Alternative Dispute Resolution
If you are involved in a conflict or dispute, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) may be right for you. ADR refers to a variety of out-of-court processes that resolve conflict peacefully and promote creative solutions. Mediation is one of the more popular forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). If you have a case you think may be appropriate for mediation, you are encouraged to speak with a Court ADR Specialist.
Mediation is effective. In mediation, a person called a "mediator" helps people in a dispute to communicate with one another, to understand each other, and if possible, to reach agreements that satisfy everyone's needs. The mediator does not take sides or decide who was right or wrong in the past. The mediator helps people focus on the future and make their own decisions. Mediation often improves communication, saves people time and money, and leads to longer-lasting agreements.
Mediation can be especially effective in family, neighbor, and business conflicts or where the individuals involved want to preserve their relationship. Mediation may not be appropriate or safe in cases involving a history or fear of domestic violence.
Free ADR services are offered by the Court through Community Dispute Resolution Centers such as The Justice Center of Atlanta (http://www.justicecenter.org/ ) at little or no cost. Mediators handle disputes between parents, parents and children, families and schools, landlords and tenants, neighbors, roommates, consumers and merchants, business partners, and others.
Mediation is confidential. Confidentiality is a core value of the mediation process. It is confidential both by law and by agreement. However, if parties reach a settlement agreement, the written and executed agreement or memorandum of agreement is not subject to confidentiality, unless all parties to the proceeding agree so in writing. Confidentiality does not include:
- Mediators and program staff reporting whether or not the parties appear for mediation;
- Threats of pending violence to self or to others; or
- If the mediator believes that a child is abused or that the safety of any party or third party is in danger.
Formal litigation may be appropriate in some cases. Although most cases may benefit from mediation, some cases might be better handled through the formal litigation process. These include lawsuits in which:
- A party wants to establish a new legal interpretation
- There is a constitutional question or a new test of the law
- A court can dispose of the case easily
- A party wants vindication
- A party wants the protections of formal litigation
- A party prefers that a judge preside over all processes
Mediation may not be appropriate for all cases. Since the successful use of mediation depends on both parties being able to make decisions on their own, mediation may also not be appropriate when:
- There is a lack of knowledge or resources to gain information by one party creating a significant imbalance of power.
- A party's physical or mental condition prohibits that party from protecting his or her own interests or in carefully considering his or her options.
- There is ongoing domestic abuse or previous interactions between the parties resulting in one party controlling or abusing the other party to such an extent that the less dominant party cannot exercise independent judgment.