|Q.||Why has my case been referred to mediation?|
|A.||Mediated settlement offers a way for you to settle your case without the need for lengthy litigation or a trial. If you are successful in mediated settlement, you may: reduce the amount of time you spend in litigation, save money, eliminate the stress involved in going to trial, and have more say in how your case is resolved. It is expensive to hold a trial, so mediation also helps conserve tax dollars and enables judges to allocate their time more effectively. |
|Q.||What happens during a mediated settlement conference?|
|A.||A mediated settlement conference is an informal legal proceeding. During the conference, a neutral “mediator” will help the parties and their attorneys discuss their dispute and search for mutually agreeable solutions. You can think of your mediator as a combination facilitator and referee.
To begin the conference, the mediator will explain the mediation process and will probably ask the attorneys to describe the case from their respective points of view. The mediator will then begin the negotiation process. Unlike a judge or jury, a mediator will not make decisions for the parties. His or her ultimate goal is to help the parties resolve the dispute themselves by opening channels of communication, injecting reason into the discussion, and helping each side see the dispute through the eyes of the other. If parties are able to come to an agreement, their terms will be put down in writing and signed. Eventually, the case will be dismissed.
|Q.||Will I be expected to actively participate in the discussions at the mediated settlement conference?|
|A.||You and your attorney can decide that. The mediation process is designed to allow litigants to take a more active role in discussing and settling their case. However, some litigants prefer to let their attorney speak for them. Because mediation is an informal proceeding, you will not be sworn in or asked to testify about any matter in the case. |
|Q.||Will my attorney be with me throughout the conference and will I be able to speak privately with my attorney if I need to?|
|A.||Yes. Your attorney will be present throughout the proceeding. If at some point during the conference you wish to speak privately with your attorney, you can ask the mediator for an opportunity to do so. |
|Q.||How much will mediation cost?|
|A.||If you, the other party or the attorneys involved choose your mediator, the mediator’s fee is determined by agreement with the mediator. If your mediator is appointed by the court, he or she will be compensated at the rate of $150 an hour for mediation services plus a $150 one time administrative fee. Unless otherwise agreed to by the parties or ordered by the court, the fee is paid in equal shares by the parties. You may be asked to pay the administrative fee up front. All other fees will be due at the conclusion of your conference. If you have no funds to pay your mediator, you may ask the Court to find that you are indigent and the mediator will provide his or her services to you at no cost. |
|Q.||Who will be my mediator?|
|A.||You and your attorney and the opposing party and his or her counsel will have an opportunity to select a certified mediator to conduct your mediation. The N.C. Dispute Resolution Commission is charged by statute with certifying mediators to conduct mediated settlement conferences in North Carolina’s superior courts and maintains a list of those it has qualified on this web site. The web site also publishes biographical information about mediators so that the public and attorneys can learn more about their education, experience and skills. Mediators certified by the Commission have completed at least 40 hours of specialized mediation training and have met other qualifications established by the Commission. Many certified mediators are experienced attorneys. Others are seasoned businessmen and women or have other qualifying professional experience. If you and the opposing party cannot agree on a mediator or make no effort to select one, the Court will appoint a certified mediator to conduct your mediated settlement conference. For help in accessing or using the Commission’s list of certified mediators, contact the Commission’s office. |
|Q.||What if I prefer to go to trial and do not want to mediate my case?|
|A.||Once your case has been ordered to mediation, you and your attorney must participate. However, if you both believe there is some compelling reason why your case should not be mediated, you may ask the court to rescind its order and to permit your case to proceed directly to trial.
Do not be too quick to reject the mediation process. Even in cases where parties seem hopelessly at odds, a skillful mediator can sometimes find a way to get opposing parties thinking and talking about ways to resolve their dispute.
|Q.||Where will my mediated settlement conference be held?|
|A.||Your conference may be held in the courthouse or in some other public building. It could also be conducted in the law office of one of the attorneys involved in the case or in the mediator’s office. |
|Q.||What if I am unwilling to agree to the terms discussed at the mediation?|
|A.||Whether you are able to settle your case or not, your mediator will not give a report to a judge or jury about statements that were made or conduct that occurred at your mediation. If your case did not settle, the mediator will not blame anyone or tell the judge/jury why it did not settle. In rare instances where a statute requires it or there is a public safety issue, a mediator may be required to report statements made or conduct occurring to other officials, such as the police. The conduct of parties is not so closely regulated as that of mediators. If you are concerned that the opposing side or some other participant in your mediation might speak to the press or share with others what occurred at your mediation, you may want to speak with your attorney about the need for a confidentiality agreement. |
|Q.||What if I have a complaint about my mediator’s conduct?|
|A.||You can address your concerns to the mediator in the hope that any misunderstandings can be resolved amicably. You or your attorney may also file a complaint with the Dispute Resolution Commission in Raleigh. The Commission enforces Standards of Professional Conduct adopted for mediators in North Carolina. The Commission may be contacted at (919) 890-1415. |