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Top Five Reasons to Choose Mediation Over Litigation

As long-time litigators, the attorneys at Cobb Cole fully understand why many clients want to pursue litigation to resolve their legal matters. The desire for validation, a belief in legal precedence, and the perception they will receive a fair and impartial judgment make litigation an attractive choice. They hold a firm conviction that:

  1. Trying a case in a court of law always results in a fairer and more impartial decision-making process, with a judge or jury better equipped to render a just outcome.
  2. Going to court allows them to present their side of the story, offer incriminating evidence, and prove their point, providing them with a sense of justice being served.
  3. Their case will establish a legal precedent that can have broader implications beyond their specific dispute.
  4. The court process gives them more leverage over the other party, which they can exploit to their advantage.
  5. By airing their grievances in court, they can shame the other party into settling in their favor.

These perceptions often lead people to place their trust in the judicial system rather than alternative methods such as mediation. However, while the court system is designed to provide a fair and impartial forum for dispute resolution, trial outcomes don’t always align with a party’s desired or anticipated results. As various factors and legal complexities can result in a less-than-satisfactory conclusion to a legal matter, it’s wise to consider how mediation can be a viable alternative to litigation.

How Does Mediation Work in Florida?

The mediation process in Florida is fundamentally the same whether your case involves civil litigation, family law, or another type of legal matter. It is an informal and confidential approach where a neutral third party (the mediator) encourages and facilitates a mutually agreeable resolution of a dispute between two or more parties. It doesn’t involve a judge or jury; instead, the parties reach their own agreement to avoid litigation.

Florida’s 20 judicial circuits routinely require or order mediation to resolve legal issues, recognizing its potential to efficiently address disputes and alleviate strain on the court system. The courts believe that promoting collaboration and facilitating timely resolutions benefits both parties, helping them avoid adversarial and time-consuming litigation that often leaves both parties unhappy (and poorer.)

5 Reasons to Choose Mediation Over Litigation

To understand just how valuable mediation can be, imagine a Deltona, FL, couple going through a divorce. Parents to two minor children, they also have a complex financial situation that includes multiple assets like bank and brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, and a vacation home.

Though they agree divorce is their best option, they’ve reached an impasse on property division, child custody, and support. Rather than resort to a contentious courtroom fight, they opt for mediation. Working with a trained mediator, they explore various options and reach mutually acceptable agreements. They create a detailed parenting plan that’s in their children’s best interests and establish a fair division of marital assets. Best of all, they avoid a lengthy and often emotionally draining litigation process.

Or consider two parties who are in a contract dispute over a construction project in DeLand, FL. Though the partnership started out amicably, the project is now facing delays and cost overruns that have put a strain on the business relationship and led to the filing of a lawsuit. The parties agree to try an alternative dispute resolution method like mediation to resolve their differences. An impartial mediator facilitates discussions between the parties, allowing each party to express their viewpoint. The parties explore various options, including extending project deadlines and revising payment terms, eventually reaching a mutually agreeable solution that allows their project to continue moving forward.

These are just two examples of how choosing mediation over litigation for resolving Civil or Family Law disputes can come with significant advantages. Potential gains include:

1. Cost-effectiveness

Mediation is typically considered more cost-effective than litigation. Instead of incurring substantial litigation-related expenses like discovery, expert witness, and court fees, the parties pay one mediator, whose fees are usually shared. Mediation also results in fewer billable attorney hours, limited expert witness fees, and lower court-related costs, including filing fees and court appearances.

Court schedules and procedural requirements often delay and postpone a trial. The longer a case drags on, the higher costs can be for legal representation. Mediation allows the parties to set their own schedule, which, more times than not, resolves the dispute in a shorter timeframe, saving everyone from the significant costs associated with prolonged litigation.

Another benefit that’s not often mentioned is that mediation can reduce emotional stress. Litigation’s adversarial nature can intensify conflicts and lead to increased mental and physical pressure. Mediation, on the other hand, promotes a cooperative and collaborative environment that can reduce the parties’ emotional strain.

Mediation’s cost-saving benefits vary depending on the complexity of your case, but the process’s streamlined nature usually limits the number of legal expenses you can expect to pay.

2. Flexibility and Control

Unlike in court settings, where a judge or jury renders a decision, mediation provides both parties with greater control over their legal matter’s outcome. They’re free to explore customized solutions that preserve relationships and help them make informed decisions that align with their circumstances and needs. Additional benefits include:

  • Crafting agreements that better meet the parties’ unique needs and ensure each side feels they’ve “won.”
  • Proceedings that are confidential, ensuring discussions between the parties, including sensitive and proprietary information, remain private. By fostering a safe and open environment, mediation allows each party to share their perspectives and explore potential solutions without the fear of public exposure. Business or family matters can be addressed without the risk of negative consequences or reputational harm.
  • Greater scheduling and timeline flexibility, as the parties and mediator determine convenient meeting times, not dependent on a judge’s calendar. This expedites the process and helps prevent the delays often associated with litigation.

3. Preservation of Relationships

Whether it’s a business partnership, a real estate deal gone wrong, or a family dispute, litigation often strains or damages personal and business relationships. Mediation promotes effective communication, encourages collaboration, and focuses on the future. By doing so, the parties are able to preserve long-term relationships, maintain goodwill, and lay the foundation for an ongoing, constructive association after a dispute is resolved.

Mediation also:

  • Promotes open and constructive communication where each party actively listens to the other, gaining insights and a greater understanding of their adversary’s viewpoint. This approach fosters empathy, reduces misunderstandings, and paves the way for finding mutually acceptable solutions. 
  • Focuses on collaborative problem-solving rather than assigning blame or seeking a “winner” and “loser.” With the mediator’s guidance, the parties work together to find creative and mutually beneficial solutions that promote trust, goodwill, and a feeling of ownership over the outcome.
  • Helps preserves dignity and respect by discouraging personal attacks or hostile behaviors. The mediator shows the parties how to focus on interests rather than positions and helps them to separate the legal issue from the person.
  • Encourages everyone to think more about the future, whether it’s co-parenting children or maintaining a business partnership. By actively working together to find mutually agreeable resolutions, the parties set a positive tone for future interactions and a healthier relationship.

4. Confidentiality

Litigation typically includes public hearings and records, potentially exposing business or personal information to a broad audience. Mediation fosters privacy and ensures any sensitive information the parties discuss during sessions remains confidential. There’s no overstating the importance this confidentiality plays in mediation, as it:

  • Creates an environment where both sides feel they can safely and honestly express their thoughts, concerns, and interests without fear of judgment or negative repercussions. Knowing mediation talks remain confidential encourages people to share sensitive information and engage in open dialogue that can lead to trust and a mutually agreeable resolution.
  • Encourages the parties to seriously and candidly engage in settlement discussions without the fear their offers or concessions will be used against them in any future litigation or public disclosure.
  • Preserves privacy and reputation, shielding the parties from public exposure and protecting their personal and professional reputations. Any sensitive information like financial standings, personal matters, or business strategies remains confidential and isn’t publicly disclosed or used against them outside the mediation process.
  • Fosters cooperation and self-determination, as each party knows their views, concerns, and ideas won’t be disclosed without their consent. The parties remain fully engaged in the mediation process and are more likely to be forthcoming and cooperative when they feel assured their participation is protected by confidentiality.
  • Facilitates post-mediation relationships, safeguarding discussions and agreements made during the mediation against exposure. When parties have ongoing relationships, such as co-parenting or business collaborations, the confidentiality maintained during the mediation process encourages future cooperation and enables everyone to move forward with their relationships on a positive and constructive note.

5. Speedier Resolution

Compared to litigation, mediation nearly always offers a quicker resolution. Court cases often take months or years to reach a verdict or resolution, with case backlogs and procedural complexities prolonging the process. With mediation, dispute agreements are achieved more quickly, and the emotional toll associated with protracted legal battles is avoided.

Mediation speeds dispute resolution in various ways, including:

  1. Flexible scheduling. The parties can schedule sessions at their convenience and work towards a solution at a pace that suits them. This flexibility allows for more efficient use of time, eliminates unnecessary delays, and ensures the dispute is addressed promptly.
  2. Streamlining the process. Because mediation focuses on resolving disputes through direct negotiation and discussion between the parties, it streamlines and helps expedite the resolution process.
  3. Efficient information sharing. Unlike mitigation, which typically involves formal discovery and time-consuming exchanges of documents and information, mediation allows the parties to share information directly with each other and the mediator.
  4. Focusing on collaboration and problem-solving. The parties work together towards a mutually acceptable resolution and don’t rely on the court to make orders they must follow. Mediators are skilled at facilitating constructive dialogue, helping the parties identify common interests, and assisting in generating creative solutions. This leads to a more efficient and effective resolution, as both parties are actively engaged in finding common ground.
  5. Eliminating dependence on court schedules. Florida’s court system is often burdened with heavy caseloads that can lead to significant delays in getting a trial date or receiving a judgment. Opting for mediation allows the parties to avoid getting caught up in court backlogs and lengthy waiting periods.
  6. Avoiding lengthy legal procedures. Litigation involves many legal procedures, including motions, discovery, and potentially protracted trials that extend the timeframe for successful dispute resolution. Mediation bypasses many of these time-consuming procedures and lets the parties focus on reaching an agreement, saving them financial resources.

Mediation may not be suitable for every legal matter, but it has proved to be an effective and beneficial approach for most cases. It provides numerous advantages that make it well worth serious consideration as an alternative to litigation.

Cobb Cole understands the nuances of various legal matters and recognizes when mediation might be the preferred option for our clients. We believe it offers advantages that make it an attractive and cost-effective choice for resolving disputes, including fostering collaborative problem-solving and allowing the parties to maintain control over the outcome.

Mediation can be particularly effective in family law matters like divorce and child custody disputes, where preserving relationships and minimizing emotional turmoil are paramount. But it also works well for business disputes, personal injury cases, and various civil matters.

Our litigation attorneys have a thorough understanding of Florida’s mediation process and its benefits. We assess your case’s specific circumstances, advise you on whether mediation is appropriate, and guide you through the mediation process. Our extensive negotiation skills ensure your interests are effectively represented during mediation sessions, your voice is heard, and your rights are protected.

While litigation is sometimes appropriate for complex or high-stakes cases, there is no denying that mediation can help most disputing parties achieve a cost-effective, timely, and mutually satisfactory resolution.

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