Mediation in Tennessee: An alternative option to settle legal matters

Mediation can provide a valuable alternative to the traditional courtroom style of litigation.

Mediation is defined by the Tennessee Judiciary as an alternative form of dispute resolution. It is a voluntary process available to those who are facing a legal dispute and is an alternative to the traditional, litigious process that makes use of the court system. Mediation can offer a timelier, less contentious and cheaper alternative that allows both parties to retain control over the resolution process. Instead of passing the resolution to a judge to make a determination, the parties can choose to develop a legally enforceable resolution with the assistance of a mediator.

Mediation: What is mediation and what types of disputes does it work for?

Mediation is, essentially, a process that utilizes an impartial third party to help two parties come to a resolution. This mediator guides negotiations and encourages options for settlement. The mediator is not a judge. As such, he or she does not decide which party is right and which is wrong. The mediator does not have the authority to enforce a settlement. Ultimately, the parties involved decide if the mediation process will be successful.

The mediator may provide assistance in drafting an agreement. If both parties have legal counsel, these attorneys may also aid in drafting the agreement. Once an agreement drafted in mediation is signed by all parties, it is legally enforceable.

This process can work well for a number of disputes, including:

  • Family law. Issues involving divorce, child custody and property division determinations can be completed using mediation.
  • Business law. Legal disputes involving contract disputes and other business claims can also benefit from mediation.
  • Personal injury law. Suits arising from car accidents or slip-and-fall cases can also find resolution using this process.

These are just a few of the types of disputes that can benefit from mediation.

Mediation: What format is used?

One format that is used for mediation is referred to as the caucus style. This format makes use of private meetings. Instead of having all parties come together to mediate in a joint session, each party meets separately with a mediator. Depending on the rules used during the mediation process, the information shared during these caucuses may remain private. Caucuses are particularly useful to convey certain pieces of information.

A recent publication by the American Bar Association discussed this form of mediation, noting it can provide an opportunity for a mediator to discuss opinions or suggestions about the case. Examples can include:

  • Strength of case. A party may want to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the case. A caucus provides a good platform for these discussions due to its private nature.
  • Settlement options. A mediator may have suggestions for settlement options, including advice about how to present or accept an offer.

This format works well for many disputes. If you are facing a dispute and are considering mediation, it is wise to seek the legal counsel of an experienced attorney. This legal professional can discuss the benefits and risks of each option and help you determine which option will better ensure your interests are protected.