What Is Mediation?
Mediation Is an Alternative to Trial
Mediation is a settlement process. It can help you resolve issues in your court case. Mediation is a way to work the case out with the other party instead of having a judge make the decision.
In mediation both parties meet with a neutral mediator. The mediator will help you find solutions to your legal issues and work toward settlement, if possible. The goal of mediation is to reach a fair agreement that both parties accept.
Mediation Can Be Voluntary or Court-Ordered
Mediation can be voluntary or the judge can order you to go to mediation. Mediation works best when it's voluntary and both parties think it will help resolve the dispute. But mediation can still work well when the judge orders it.
How Mediation Works
Mediation can resolve the issues that you and the other party don’t agree on. For example, in a divorce case, mediation can help decide child custody and parenting time. In a landlord/tenant case, mediation can help parties compromise on unpaid rent or damages. In a land contract case, mediation can help work out a plan for missed payments. Before going to mediation, you should think about the problems that you want to cover.
Normally both parties meet together with the mediator several times. You will each have a chance to tell the mediator what you want to happen in the case. The mediator is not a judge and won’t decide who is right or wrong. The mediator won’t make decisions for you.
Mediation is a cooperative process. The mediator will help you and the other party make joint decisions.
For more information on the settlement process, read Settlement and Negotiation Strategies.
The Costs of Mediation
Mediators charge their own hourly fee, so the cost can vary. Many counties have a Community Dispute Resolution Center (CDRC), which may have a sliding fee scale. The judge will likely order each party to each pay half of the cost. If the judge orders mediation but you can't afford it, you can ask the judge for a free or low-cost mediator. Free and low-cost mediators are not available in every county.
You can find information about mediation services in the Courts and Agencies section of this website.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Mediation?
Mediation may have these benefits over a regular court process:
- It can resolve your dispute faster, especially in cases where you agree about most things;
- It may cost you less, for example, in court fees or time off work for court dates;
- It may be more confidential than a trial. The final judgment is a public record, but your settlement talks stay private;
- You will have more control over the outcome of your dispute;
- It can avoid the sometimes combative court process. This may be better for your relationship with the other party. This can be especially important if you have children together;
- If you all have agreed to the solution, you are all more likely to stick to it.
Mediation is not the best choice for every legal dispute. Your case might not be right for mediation if any of these are true:
- There has been a history of abuse or intimidation between the parties;
- One of the parties is used to being in control and making all of the decisions;
- One or both of you may have a hard time giving their ideas or opinions in mediation. This could happen if one of you is less comfortable using English, or if one of the parties has more experience negotiating;
- The health or safety of one or both of you might be put at risk by mediation;
- You don’t yet have all the information you will need to make informed decisions. If this is true, it might be too early to try mediation.
If any of these apply to you, you may want to consider speaking with a lawyer so that you get the best possible result in your case. If you have low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area.
What Can I Do If My Case Was Sent to Mediation but I Have Experienced Domestic Violence?
If you are not comfortable with mediation because of domestic violence, you can ask for the case to be removed from mediation by filing a motion. The Michigan One Court of Justice website has the Motion to Remove Case from Mediation form. When you fill out the form, leave the "Notice of Hearing" and "Certificate of Mailing" sections blank. File the motion within 14 days after you get notice of the order that assigns you to mediation. When you file the motion, ask the court clerk for a hearing date and fill that information into the "Notice of Hearing" section. The hearing must be within 14 days after you file the motion. You will need to serve a copy of the motion on your spouse. To serve the motion, fill out the "Certificate of Mailing" section at the bottom of the form and make two copies. Mail a copy to your spouse (or to their attorney, if they have one). Before your hearing date, file the form that you signed and dated with the court to show them that you sent a copy to your spouse. Keep one copy for your records.
Mediation Does Not Replace the Need for Legal Advice
Mediators will not give you legal advice or represent you. Many mediators are not lawyers. Mediation may reduce your need for a lawyer, but you should consider talking to a lawyer. They can help you understand your rights and the legal consequences of settling the case in mediation.
If you have low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area.
How Can I Find a Mediator?
Once you have selected a county on Michigan Legal Help, you can find information about your local mediation or dispute resolution center under the heading Courts and Agencies. You can also get information about your local mediation or dispute resolution center by using the Guide to Legal Help.
Are There Other Types of Dispute Resolution that May Be Used in My Case?
Yes. Mediation is just one tool that may be used to reach an agreement in your case. Other options are as follows:
Arbitration is a private, voluntary process where you and the other party choose a neutral person to make a decision in your case. The arbitrator’s decision is binding, which means that it becomes part of your final judgment even if you don’t agree with it. This is what makes arbitration different from mediation. The arbitrator’s decision becomes the final order even if one or both of you disagree with it.
Friend of the Court Mediation (Family Law Cases)
In some counties, the Friend of the Court may provide mediation in family law cases. If you don't reach an agreement through FOC mediation, FOC may do an investigation or hold a hearing. To learn more about FOC and their role in your family law case, read Friend of the Court Overview.
Other Friend of the Court Dispute Resolution (Family Law Cases)
Besides mediation, there are two other types of Friend of the Court alternative dispute resolution: "joint meetings" and "facilitative and information-gathering conferences." In both of these, the FOC worker will try to help the parties reach an agreement on the issues. If the parties reach an agreement, the worker will submit a report to the judge and may also submit a proposed order that includes the parties' agreements. Unlike mediation, if the parties do not agree on the issues, the FOC worker may prepare a recommended order. The FOC will send the recommendation to the judge and both parties.
A Friend of the Court recommendation usually will become a court order if neither party objects to it on time. Read the recommendation carefully for information about this. If you disagree with the recommendation, you can file an objection within 21 days from the date of service, and schedule a date for a hearing in front of the judge.
If you want to file an objection, call the court clerk's office or Friend of the Court office to find out if they have a form you can use. Or you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find a lawyer to draft an objection for you. Currently there is no statewide objection form.
You and the other party can negotiate to settle your legal dispute at any time during your case. You can do this outside of court and you do not need to have a mediator. Your negotiation may be face-to-face, or by phone calls, text, or letters.
To learn more about how to prepare for negotiation, how to communicate with the other party, and what to do if you reach an agreement, read Settlement and Negotiation Strategies.