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Alternative Dispute Resolution, also known as mediation, has been available to the citizens of Tennessee since 1996, when the Tennessee Supreme Court enacted Rule 31. This rule makes it possible for citizens of Tennessee to use mediation instead of litigation to resolve a dispute.

You’ve probably heard the terms mediation and litigation, but do you actually know what they mean? And why – and when – would you choose mediation over litigation?

Mediation and litigation defined

Mediation: The term mediation means that an objective third party listens to both sides of a disagreement, and works to bring the two parties to an agreement that is acceptable to both. No decision is made until both parties agree to the terms of the resolution.

The mediation process involves a mediator who will hear both sides of the case. After the initial meeting, the mediator may meet with each party separately, often more than once, while attempting to bring the two parties to an agreement.

And while having your lawyer present during mediation is not a requirement, it is definitely a good idea. Your lawyer will look out for your best interests, and may spot problems and issues that you don’t.

You may hear the terms mediation and arbitration used interchangeably, but they are different. In arbitration, an objective third party hears both sides of a disagreement, and then makes a decision on the matter.

Litigation: The term litigation means to bring forth a lawsuit and present it to a court. It is much more formal than either mediation or arbitration, and the final resolution is decided by a judge.

The litigation process involves filing a court case, waiting for the court to set dates for depositions and hearings, and either settling the case or going through a trial, and possibly appeals.

Benefits of mediation

Mediation is a more collaborative way of coming to an agreement and has a number of benefits:

  • Keeps you out of court, which can save time and money
  • Mediation is much less formal than litigation, and therefore can cause you less stressful
  • You get to sign off on the final agreement
  • If you can’t come to an agreement with the other party, you can always go to litigation

When and why you might choose mediation over litigation

There are a number of reasons why you might choose mediation over litigation.

  • If you don’t want to go through a long, drawn-out court proceeding
  • If you want to preserve a relationship with the other party
  • If you prefer to keep the records private
  • If you want to save time and money

While not all disagreements can be easily resolved through mediation, there are a number of good reasons to give it a try. And if the issue isn’t resolved to your liking, you always have the option to move into litigation.