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Mediation Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is mediation?
Mediation is a method of dispute resolution that enables people to reach a mutually agreeable solution to their conflict with the assistance of a neutral mediator.
Mediators are not judges. They make no decision for the parties. A mediator helps parties realize and explain their needs, clarify issues, explore solutions and negotiate an agreement. The purpose of mediation is to help parties find a solution that will work for them.
Mediation is different from other settlement techniques in that: (1) the discussion is not limited to the strictly legal issues in the case, but expanded to include other needs and interests of the parties in order to broaden resolution options; (2) the mediator does not decide issues or evaluate the parties’ positions; and (3) because self-determination is fundamental, the parties themselves are actively involved.
2. What are the benefits of mediation?
Compared to a trial, mediation offers parties:
- lower cost resolution of the dispute
- prompt resolution of the dispute
- private resolution of the dispute
- better understanding between parties
- greater likelihood of compliance with the resolution
- control over the outcome of the dispute
3. How does the mediation process work?
A typical mediation progresses through the following stages:
- Preparing for mediation: Attorneys submit a brief written statement prior to the session.
- Initial joint session: The mediator explains the process, hears short presentations from the parties, asks questions about issues and interests.
- Separate sessions: The mediator often meets privately with each party to explore interests and concerns, both legal and non-legal.
- Subsequent separate and joint sessions: The mediator helps parties develop options and evaluate alternatives.
- Completing the process: The mediator will outline the agreement to be written in final form by the attorneys. The agreement may, but need not be submitted to the court and the case will be dismissed. If no agreement is reached, the case returns to the active court docket.
4. What types of disputes can be mediated?
Mediation has proved useful in many kinds of disputes. In Nebraska, the assigned judges will assess the suitability of individual cases considering the comments of counsel and the following factors, among others:
- whether the parties are in a continuing relationship;
- the extent to which the parties have previously engaged in administrative conciliation or “work out” efforts;
- the extent to which the controversy involves policy or practice issues regarding future action by one of the parties;
- the amount in controversy; and
- the relation of the amount in controversy to the expected litigation costs.
5. How long does mediation take?
Mediation may vary in length from four to eighteen hours. Several sessions may be necessary, depending on the complexity of the case. The mediation session must be held no later than 60 days following the entry of the order of referral, unless all parties agree to a continuance, in which case the mediation session must be held no later than 90 days following the entry of the order of referral.
6. How much does mediation cost?
The cost of the mediation is borne by the parties to the mediation session at the rate negotiated by counsel and the mediator, plus mileage expenses if the mediator is required to travel. The fee will be divided equally unless otherwise agreed by the parties. In the event any of the parties is proceeding in forma pauperis, or is unable to pay that party’s portion of the mediation fees and has applied for approval for payment of such fees from the Federal Practice Fund, that party may request that the chief judge approve the mediation fees in accordance with applicable local rules and the Plan for Administration of the Federal Practice Fund, unless the mediated settlement includes payment of that party’s mediation fee by another party.
7. Who are mediators?
Mediators in federal cases are experienced Nebraska lawyers who have been approved as mediators under the court’s Mediation Plan in addition to previously having been approved under the Nebraska Dispute Resolution Act.
For more information, see the court’s Mediation Plan.