Mediation – 14 Answers to Frequent Questions

1. What is mediation?
Mediation is a process in which the participants design the solutions to their own dispute(s). Oftentimes parties in litigation are ordered to mediation by the judge in the hope that a settlement can be reached and a trial avoided.

2. How much does it cost?
With fees as low as $200 an hour, mediators (who sometimes work in teams), mediating disputes can cost substantially less than lawsuits, where the attorney fees may be $200 – $300 per hour for each lawyer. Even if you have an attorney with you in the mediation, the costs of mediating can be significantly less than the cost of litigation.

3. Why is mediation different from litigation?
In mediation the parties attack the problem, not each other.

4. What if the other party tries to force me to take an unfair compromise?
Only you decide if you will accept a compromise in order to settle your dispute. No one can force you to agree to anything. If you are represented by an attorney, you and your attorney will decide whether to accept a compromise.

Mediation is not a process which simply “splits the difference”. Either party may end up with more, or less, than he or she thought she would. The mediation is a form of negotiation.

5. Don’t lawyers have to be involved to solve a legal problem?
No, but usually lawyers represent people in mediation. Sometimes a person chooses to represent themself and sometimes both persons represent themselves without attorneys. Of course, you may want to review any agreement with your lawyer before you sign it.

6. What does the mediator do?
The mediator facilitates discussion to help the parties resolve their disputes with “win-win” compromises they can both agree to, instead of “win-lose” court decisions. The mediator helps each side to see their position from the perspective of the other party as well as their own.

7. Is the mediator a lawyer?
Some mediators are lawyers, but others come from a wide variety of occupations. Mediators who are lawyers probably have a better ability to assist the participants in the strengths and weaknesses of their positions.

8. Is what I say in mediation going to be used against me in court?
Your mediation session is confidential and neither you, the other party(ies), nor the mediator can testify in court about the mediation without the written permission of all of the parties.

9. Is mediation as stressful as litigation?
No. Because you control the process and design the solution, mediation is less stressful than litigation.

10. Is the mediation agreement enforceable in court?
Whether the agreement is a binding contract or a good faith statement of principles is up to the participants. As a general rule, when parties reach an agreement it is best to reduce it to writing, signed by all the parties, as soon as possible.

11. What rules do I have to follow in mediation?
There are no set rules – the participants can write their own rules if they don’t like those suggested by the mediator.

In any case, however, it is important for the parties to show each other respect and listen carefully to the positions put forth by the other side. Sometimes what is not said can be as important as what is said. For example, a party may drop a demand they have been making without saying “I am dropping my demand on this issue”.

12. What if I decide that mediation won’t solve my dispute?
You are always free to discontinue the mediation. When the mediation occurs because of a court order, the mediator will advise the court that the mediation occurred and no agreement was reached.

13. What kinds of disputes can be resolved through mediation?
Mediation can be used to solve a wide range of disputes, such as lawsuits, divorce and child custody, landlord/tenant, workplace disputes and neighborhood problems.

My practice emphasizes disputes involving probate, conservatorships, elder law and real estate.

14. How can I get in touch with a mediator?
Call or write Brian Sheppard at 10875 Ventura Blvd., Suite 109, Encino, CA 91316. Tel: (818) 342-5799. Fax: (818) 342-2470. I have been working with Seniors since 1990 and has been trained in mediation by the Los Angeles County Bar Association and Dispute Resolution Services. As a member of the Los Angeles County Civil Court and Probate Court mediation panels, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court mediation panel, I look forward to helping you resolve any dispute you may have.