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Mediation is a process through which parties in a dispute reach a compromise voluntarily. Judges and arbitrators do not decide cases in mediation, but rather, the process relies upon a 3rd party neutral who assists the parties in settling their case.
Cases can be mediated at any stage. Some parties wish to avoid filing a lawsuit altogether, and will seek to mediate a case prior to the Court’s involvement. Other cases may be mediated at any time up to and even after trial, generally to avoid an appeal.
Mediation only works if both sides have some risk in going forward without resolving the dispute. Unless one side has a “slam-dunk” case (and there are not many of those), then generally, everyone has some risk. If you have been sued for money damages, for example, then you are at risk of having to pay those money damages if you lose at trial. Even if you think that the risk is low that you will ultimately have to pay money damages, you still may have to pay attorneys’ fees and litigation costs in order to defend yourself. Some cases do not involve money damages at all, but rather, involve some other type of benefit or advantage. For example, neighbors may be fighting over the proper boundary line, and both sides have a risk that the Court will find in the other party’s favor.
Mediators are generally trained to perform the job of acting as the 3rd party neutral. In Indiana, lawyers go through a 40-hour training course in order to become “registered.”