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What is a mediator?

A mediator is an individual, appointed by the parties to a legal conflict, whose sole job is to listen, evaluate and help those parties come to an amicable solution that will, hopefully, prevent litigation in a court of law.  Mediators are often, but need not be members of the legal system.  Some possess law degrees, and some are often former judges, where as others possess no more than a bachelor's degree and rely on their expertise in negotiation and problem solving to help parties on the verge of civil litigation to come to a compromise

There are few state laws that require a specific license in order to be a mediator but it is often found that a mediator will possess some background in mediation skills, whether it be in undergraduate classes in negotiation and alternate dispute resolution or a certificate of training. 

What are the advantages to having a mediator?

There are numerous advantages to having a mediator.  First, and foremost, is the cost.  Going to trial can be expensive.  Court costs and attorney's fees can quickly accumulate.  On the other hand, the process of mediation is comparably inexpensive and less time consuming.  Depending on the legal matter involved mediators can be supplied by the community or even a court for free.  In other matters mediators can charge between $1,000 or $2,000 per day for their services. 

A second benefit to having a mediator is that a mediator's decision is not binding on any of the parties.  The mediator's job is merely to evaluate the situation and help the parties come to a solution.  The mediator's determination is often viewed as a way of foreshadowing what might happen if a matter goes into the litigation stages.

How do I choose a mediator?

A mediator is not court appointed, in fact a court of law has nothing to do with mediation.  In many situations a mediator may be found through a roster maintained by the court.  Mediators can also be located through the private sector and the wealth of mediators available should result in the retention of one that has specific expertise in the area that your conflict arises out of. 

When searching for a mediator parties involved should keep certain things in mind.  First and foremost a mediator who is knowledgeable in the field is highly important.  It is pertinent that a mediator be found who can be neutral to the matter.  For example, it would be problematic for you to choose a mediator that, upon subsequent research, is the brother-in-law of the other party to the matter.