If you have a dispute or have “gotten into it” with someone – a business, a neighbor, a customer, or whoever – you may be thinking of going to small claims court. However, there is a faster and more effective way to resolve the issue: come to resolution using a mediator. This is a way that’s actually encouraged by the courts, for reasons explained below.
By the way, if you have already filed with the small claims court, or have been sued and have a court date set, you can still offer to use a mediator. It may work out better for both of you. If you do not want to call the other person directly, a mediator can make the call for you to propose mediation. Mediation also works if you tried to resolve this previously and failed, or even if you do not want to meet directly with the other party.
How it works:
- The goal of mediation is to come up with a written agreement between the two parties as to how to resolve the dispute.
- The mediator will sit down with the two parties, either separately or together.
- Each side will get a chance to tell their complete story.
- The mediator will then suggest options for a way in which the issues can be resolved in a way that is acceptable for both sides.
- When both sides are in agreement, the mediator will then write up the agreement and both sides will sign.
Here are the many benefits of mediation:
A “negotiated agreement” (which is what the final agreement is called) is a lot more flexible than a court judgment. For example, if there is a sum of money involved, a small claims judge may simply make a judgment of some or all of the amount claimed. However, a mediated agreement can include other terms such as non-disparagement, discounts on future business, agreement to complete part of the work, even an agreement for one side to apologize.
An agreement can include payment terms. For example, if you get a judgment in small claims court, who knows when you will get paid? An agreement however can include terms such as “within thirty days”, “by certified check”, or whatever.
A court judgment against an individual will show up on that person’s credit report. However, if an agreement is reached, any suit already filed is usually dismissed with no such derogatory effect.
A plaintiff who goes to court may end up with nothing unless they can make a solid case. However, an agreement is likely to get them something and maybe much of what they want.
Anything said in mediation is confidential. Particularly, anything you say in private to the mediator. So mediation is a good forum to state all your issues and concerns that may be relevant but that you don’t want to say in a courtroom or to the other party.
If you are interested in leaning more about how mediation can quickly help resolve your dispute, please visit the Confidential Inquiry page to contact the Los Angeles Mediator. You will receive a prompt response.
Anthony Matthews is a mediator practicing in the San Fernando Valley and Online, with a private practice focusing on individual and small business disputes. He has a law degree from Cambridge, and also volunteers regularly for the Los Angeles Superior Court, mediating Small Claims, Civil Harassment, and Unlawful Detainer(Eviction) cases. If you have any questions or are interested in his mediation services, please contact him at mediator [at] adrmcr.com.