Mediation / Arbitration Experience
I began civil mediation in 1990 when all Circuit Court cases were referred to a three-member mediation panel to attempt resolution prior to trial. Since that time, the Court Rules have renamed the mediation process “case evaluation” and I have been appointed to case evaluation panels continuously since 1990. Throughout that time, I have been involved in the evaluation of over 500 Circuit Court cases.
Shortly after I began mediating Circuit Court civil cases, in about 1991, the judges in Livingston County began assigning me as a single mediator in divorce cases. Since that time, I have mediated over 700 divorce cases and estimate that 95%-98% of those cases settled as a result of mediation.
When mediating, I stress the need for compromise. I encourage the parties to recognize that mediation is not a contested proceeding where it is one party “versus” the other party, as it is in court proceedings. The goal of mediation is to recognize that the parties have a dispute and to resolve it in a way where neither party “wins”, but where both parties are satisfied that they were treated fairly and were able to control their own destiny.
Mediation is preferable to having a third-party judge make a decision that has a significant impact on the future of a family with only limited facts that are further limited by time constraints due to the court’s schedule and the rules of evidence. It is my belief that the parties to a divorce action are in a better position to make reasoned decisions about the future of their families than a judge. I listen very carefully and try to facilitate a reasonable resolution for all parties involved so that the family can move on.
Arbitration is similar to mediation except that, as arbitrator, I am granted the authority to make a binding decision. Many parties prefer arbitration to court trials because the process does not get caught up in the bureaucracy of the court system which can cause lengthy delays and the arbitration process is more personal and private. Because of the delays with the court system, and the need to appear for repeated hearings that result in no resolution, the arbitration process is usually less expensive than proceeding to trial, even though the arbitrator is paid a fee. Many attorneys have selected me as arbitrator to avoid the uncertainties of judicial decisions and because they know that I treat the parties fairly. I have not kept track of the number of arbitrations that I have conducted, both civil and domestic, but it is certainly over 100.