It is unfortunate but inevitable that within some relationships, be they family, business, workplace or neighbours, disputes arise that threaten the relationship. The reasons for them are various. Between family members probably the most common cause revolves around rights to own or use property of one form or another, often following a death and where there is no will or the testator’s intentions are not clear. However, they also include failure to agree over responsibilities for the care of elderly or sick relatives and settling the custody of children following a separation. In business partners fall out over their perceived contribution to the success of their enterprise and neighbours argue over boundaries and noise.
All such matters can be settled through the courts but the process is likely to be protracted, costly and the formality adds to the emotional stress of the situation. A judicial determination, focusing as it must on the strict application of the law, is equivocal and may result in a totally unsatisfactory outcome for one or other of the parties to the dispute, eventually leading to an irrevocable breakdown in the relationship.
A practical alternative to litigation, most especially when the parties wish to achieve a “fair” outcome but cannot decide for themselves what is “fair”, is resolution through an independent mediator. Mediation will not determine the rights and wrongs of the dispute or direct the parties in any way. It is a process for helping the disputants to find an outcome that they can accept and it has the advantages over litigation that it can be set up quickly, is comparatively inexpensive and infinitely less adversarial.
If mediation is attempted but for any reason does not succeed in identifying an acceptable outcome, parties do not lose their rights to proceed with litigation. However, if legal action is subsequently pursued, the courts are generally interested as to why mediation has failed, although this in itself may not affect the ultimate judgment.
I am a trained and experienced mediator and have gained the Mediation Practitioner’s Certificate which is accredited by the Open College Network and the Law Society.