When we typically think of mediation and hiring a mediator to resolve a problem, it is usually tied to a problem that has already found its way to court. While mediation is a great (and often mandatory, i.e. court-ordered) step to attempt to resolve litigation, there is so much value in the process that can also be applied to daily life and disputes that are not in court.
Most would consider these disputes “pre-suit,” i.e. a suit could or will likely be filed, but the parties want to try to work it out first (or a law requires them to try to work it out first, like Florida’s HOA statute – 720.311). But I am not only talking about disputes that are potential lawsuits. There is a world of opportunity to use mediation in a broader sense, to disputes that would not traditionally be resolved in court.
I have mediated employment disputes over alleged unpaid wages and unlawful termination. But there are lots of other workplace disputes that you would hope the participants wouldn’t have to hire lawyers to resolve and wouldn’t normally end up in court. While human resources professionals are trained to be neutral, there is often still a dash of skepticism on the employee’s part – after all, in a company large enough to have dedicated HR staff, everyone works for “the man.” This is where a trained mediator can lend their skills and provide reassurance to everyone that they are looking toward peaceful resolution – not what’s in their own best interest. A friendly, confidential mediation could be helpful in resolving many such disputes, including:
- disputes amongst co-workers (personality differences, space-sharing, delegation of tasks);
- disputes amongst supervisors (staffing, division of work, territorial);
- employer/employee (job duties, promotions, career trajectory).
A couple seated across a heated negotiating table is often our cultural snapshot of a divorce. But mediation is not only helpful for those dividing assets and child custody. Lots of other “family” disputes could be resolved early on, before loved ones become arch-enemies. Some examples that come to mind are:
- Delegation of family responsibilities, child-care;
- Planning for the care of elders;
- Division of assets after an inheritance (without a will).
Who really wants to have to “lawyer up” against someone they’re stuck living or working next to for the unforeseen future? There often are no “winners” in these disputes, because everyone tends to end up miserable. An experienced mediator may be able to help resolve the tension and focus the participants on creating a better living environment for all (not to mention saving headaches and money). Mediation may be helpful in resolving disputes such as:
- arguments regarding boundaries, landscaping, parking, or aesthetics;
- arguments over noises, smells, or other disturbances;
- division of responsibility for shared resources, i.e. fences, hedges, ponds, etc.
What I hope you take away from these examples is that mediation is a useful tool and is not limited to resolving legal problems. Because it is confidential (with very few exceptions), there is often little to no risk in attempting to resolve the dispute early on, perhaps even before anyone has consulted a lawyer. My primary goal as a mediator is to get the lives and businesses of the parties moving forward again, and not bogged down by a disagreement. So much time, effort, and money can potentially be saved by efficiently resolving these disputes and moving on to other priorities.
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.