When dealing with a conflict or dispute, the fastest solution is to resolve it directly with the other party. However, that is not a particularly realistic goal in certain situations. Some people will need outside help to reach an agreement.
The courts can rule on litigated matters, ranging from property division disagreements when couples divorce to disputes over child custody. However, litigation is expensive and quite public. Many people in the process of ending their marriages would prefer to resolve their disagreements outside of court if possible.
Mediation and arbitration are both alternative dispute resolution systems that people can utilize before resorting to a lawsuit. What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?
The role of the third party is different
Perhaps the biggest difference between mediation and arbitration is what role the third party who serves as the facilitator plays in the process. In arbitration, the professional helping facilitate negotiations forms a role much like that of a judge in civil court. They hear both sides of the matter, review the evidence, and then enter a decision that they believe is fair and appropriate given the circumstances.
In mediation, the professional does not make any major decisions or past judgment but will instead focus their efforts on helping the people involved in the disagreement compromise with one another. A mediator is often skilled in conflict resolution and can help those who disagree find a way to meet in the middle.
The tone of the proceedings is also different
Arbitration is similar to litigation in that it is an adversarial process. One party wins over the other, although the decision may not be binding the way it would be in court. Although there is binding arbitration available, divorcing couples can use the arbitration decision as a starting point for ongoing settlement negotiations.
In mediation, the focus is on cooperation or collaboration. Both parties will need to compromise to complete the process successfully. Mediation can be a valuable tool for those hoping to rebuild a professional or personal relationship with the other party involved in the dispute following the resolution of the issue.
Recognizing the differences between mediation and arbitration can help you utilize the best tools possible for solving your current legal tangles.