Going to Court


Mediation is a way to work out legal problems and find solutions outside of the courtroom. It's private and can save you time. But you must keep an open mind. Here's what else you need to know.

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There's a way to work out legal problems outside of the courtroom. It's called mediation. Sometimes, the court will suggest it if there's a chance that you and the other side can work together to find a solution.   

The decision to mediate or not is yours. However, keep in mind the benefits of mediation. Mediation can save you time and the stress of having to talk about your private life in a public courtroom. 

What is a mediator?

If the court asks you and the other side to try mediation and you both agree, you will work with a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party. That means they don’t work for you and they don’t work for the other side. They work for the court. 

The mediator’s job is to:

  • Manage the meeting. The mediator asks questions and listens to both sides, without judgement. 
  • Offer solutions. The purpose of mediation is to find common ground. It’s the mediator’s goal to get you there. 
  • Write up an agreement. Once you have found that common ground, the mediator will write up an agreement with all the things you agree to. 

What happens in mediation?

Because mediation takes place outside of the courtroom, it’s more informal. Most likely, it will just be you, the other side and the mediator sitting down at a table. 

The mediator will set the ground rules. It will be up to you to share your side of the story, listen to the other side with an open mind and make decisions. 

You don't have to agree to everything in mediation, especially if you think something is unfair, you don't understand it or don't think you can do it. It’s also okay if you and the other side can’t reach an agreement. If that happens, the mediator will either schedule another session or return the case to the formal court process. 

Here's what else you need for a successful mediation:  

  • Documents and notes. Put together any receipts, documents or photographs that might help. Write some notes about what you want to make sure to say.
  • Openness and honesty. Mediation offers you an opportunity to be open, honest and direct with the information you have to share. If you hold anything back or don’t tell the truth, you could end up wasting this valuable time. 
  • Patience. Mediation can either be very quick or last for hours. It depends on how complex your situation is. The point is to keep at it, if it’s working. And be patient. 
  • An open mind. Mediation is not about winning. It’s about reaching a solution that works for you and the other side. That might mean that you end up making some trade offs. 

Learn about how to negotiate, another way to resolve a legal problem without going to court.  

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