When most people hear the word “mediation” they are immediately transported to a vague reference from pop culture – maybe you saw people slamming the table in a movie or making snarky remarks in a legal drama. Quite often mediation is featured in the family law context – we all know that those decisions are ideally worked out amongst the family members – but mediation is an available and useful tool in ALL areas of the law (and life).
Almost any dispute can be mediated, and in most cases, SHOULD be mediated before the problem escalates. In some agreements and circumstances, pre-suit mediation is actually mandatory. For instance, the standard Florida contract for sale and purchase of real estate calls for pre-suit mediation by a certified mediator of any “unresolved controversies, claims and other matters in question … relating to this Contract, or its breach, enforcement, or interpretation.” See Section 16 of the Florida Realtor Association / Florida Bar standard contract. This gives the parties the opportunity to sit down and attempt to resolve the problem before running into court. Likewise, Florida’s HOA statute, Section 720.311, requires a demand for pre-suit mediation of any “[d]isputes between an association and a parcel owner regarding use of or changes to the parcel or the common areas and other covenant enforcement disputes, disputes regarding amendments to the association documents, disputes regarding meetings of the board and committees appointed by the board, membership meetings not including election meetings, and access to the official records of the association.”
But it’s not just the problems headed for court that can be mediated. Even those disputes that probably wouldn’t otherwise end up in court (maybe Judge Judy) can be mediated cost-effectively. Such examples include neighbor disputes, pet disputes, and even arguments amongst friends or colleagues that may jeopardize the relationship going forward. It is simply an opportunity to sit down with a neutral who is trained in problem-solving techniques and approaches, a chance to breathe new perspective into a frustrating situation.
The harsh reality of today’s economic and legal markets often means that a lot of money, time, and stress is going to be used up before any real results are delivered. Why hold up business, tie up those resources, and wait for a stranger to decide the outcome when you can spend an afternoon (with snacks!) finding a solution? Of course, there are the exceptions. There are absolutely instances where litigation is necessary. But even those cases will often mediate before trial.
In sum, I urge all of my fellow colleagues, clients, and friends to mediate often and mediate early, if possible. You lose nothing in the process because it’s confidential (what happens at mediation, stays at mediation) and you gain the opportunity to move on with business and spend your resources in more meaningful ways.
Nicole Giuliano is a Florida Supreme Court Certified (County & Circuit) mediator and would cherish the opportunity to help you resolve your dispute. Click here to view our current rates and terms.