Last updated on December 14th, 2023 at 02:00 am

Mediation can be extremely useful when multiple parties are attempting to resolve a conflict. When you use a mediator, whether it is a personal decision or sanctioned by the court, all parties involved receive confidential advice and consultation that will make it easier to find common ground.

Written agreements that result from mediation are usually legally binding. Knowing what legal constraints come along with mediation is extremely important before entering into a situation where you will be using a mediator.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a way to settle legal disputes. It is a voluntary and confidential process where a trained, neutral mediator helps guide the parties toward a resolution to their disagreement. Many people choose mediation as an alternative to settling in court. 

Mediation itself usually isn’t binding unless it is ordered by the court. However, if the parties come to an agreement, the written contract can be legally binding. The penalties for dishonoring a mediation agreement can include time in court, heavy fines, or civil arrest.

In short, mediation is a structured and private process where a neutral third party is called upon to help separate parties have more successful discussions and ultimately resolve a complicated dispute. Most commonly, mediators are used during divorces, personal injury matters, small business disputes, and real estate controversies.

Mediators must always set aside their own beliefs and values and focus on what is best for all clients involved.

A safe environment is necessary when looking to reach a mutual understanding through mediation. A mediator listens to each party’s different issues, feelings, and understandings. Then, the mediator combines that listening with unique communication and debating techniques to help the parties create a solution that feels acceptable to everyone involved.

Is Mediation Legally Binding?

Mediation is legally binding if both parties come to a written agreement and it gets approved by the court. Dishonoring an approved mediation agreement or contract can result in time in court, heavy legal fines, and even civil arrest.

However, signing a written mediation agreement is always voluntary. Even if you have been ordered by a court or contract to try mediation for a period of time, you are not required to sign a written agreement. You are only required to attend the court-ordered mediation sessions.

Mediation only becomes legally binding when both parties agree to a written contract that gets sent to the court and then approved by a judge. If the judge is never involved in the contract, then the mediation agreement is an informal agreement with no legal bearing.

The Consequences of Breaking a Mediation Agreement

If mediation is conducted privately outside of the court and a member of the agreement does not honor the contract, individuals must independently bring their case to court for legal repercussions. In this case, one or more parties will sue for the original dispute as well as for the violation of their contract.

If mediation is court mandated and a party breaches their contract, the case is immediately brought to a judge in court who then decides what serious legal action should be taken, such as civil arrest or being held in contempt of court. These types of mediations are always legally binding and therefore very serious.

When to Use a Mediator

Mediation is often useful when two or more parties are at odds with a serious conflict and are unable to settle their dispute on their own. It can be an excellent option when all parties would like to avoid an expensive, time-consuming battle in court.

Mediation happens outside of the courtroom and allows for people to try to resolve their issues without standing in front of a judge. Using a mediator often completely replaces conventional court procedures. Sometimes the parties involved never even need to step into a courtroom. Mediation can also be used to speed up legal resolutions, surpass the trial process and ultimately save people financially from heavy court and attorney fees.

You might use a mediator for a number of reasons, including if you slip and fall inside of a business, if you’re getting divorced and need to work out your assets, or a job contract is breached. However, mediation may not be the best option if the parties will not agree on basic truths (e.g. whether someone is guilty of a serious crime) or if someone involved feels threatened.

Talk to a Lawyer About Whether Mediation Is Right For You

Figuring out whether a mediator is right for you and your situation can be tricky. While mediation can be a great time-saver in many situations, it is not a good option for every legal case. We recommend consulting with an experienced lawyer about your options.

If you’re looking for an expert mediator in the local Puget Sound community, the Anderson Hunter Law Firm can offer you some of the best mediation services and legal advice around. With unparalleled experience, excellent service, and high-caliber legal assistance, Anderson Hunter is the most trusted firm in the area. We have 15 knowledgeable lawyers on staff, so you can be sure you’ll find the perfect representation for you and your case.

Contact us today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys and find out why Anderson Hunter has stood the test of time.

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