There are several types of Alternative Dispute Resolution available to litigants. The most commonly used form of alternative dispute resolution is mediation, a process in which a neutral mediator works with the parties to reach a resolution to the case. If a resolution is reached, the agreement is reduced to writing and filed with the court to be approved as a court order. Once approved, the agreement becomes a binding court order.
While there are uniform rules governing Alternative Dispute Resolution in Indiana, each county has the discretion to determine whether litigants are required to attend mediation prior to a contested hearing. Mediation requirements not only differ from county to county, but they differ among the different types of cases before the court. Monroe County provides requirements on mediation in family law cases but does not provide a requirement for mediation in any other type of case. Litigants in family law cases are required to attend mediation before a contested final hearing and before a post-dissolution modification hearing on child custody or parenting time. Parties may ask the court to be excused from the requirement to mediate, and the court may excuse the parties from mediation if deemed appropriate. Parties may agree on who will serve as mediator, or they may ask the court to appoint a panel of mediators from which the parties will strike. Even without a local rule requiring mediation, the court always maintains discretion to order mediation in any type of case if they deem it appropriate.
Mediations provide parties an opportunity to reduce the risk of an unfavorable outcome at court while allowing them to maintain control over the terms of their resolution. Mediation allows parties to formulate creative solutions to their case, and the parties may agree to terms that a court would otherwise be unable to order. Focusing on interests, rather than positions, is one effective tool used to have success at mediation. All settlement negotiations discussed at mediation are deemed confidential by our trial rules, so there is no concern that your willingness to explore creative solutions at mediation will be used against you at court if mediation fails. Even if mediation does not end in resolution, the mediation process is a mechanism to obtain needed information and have any remaining questions answered prior to a hearing.
The attorneys at Slotegraaf Niehoff are experienced in utilizing mediation in the litigation process as an effective tool for resolution.