Small Claims Court
As dockets for small claims court, which hear cases under $6,000, depending on the state, continue to increase at a high rate, most courts have instituted policies that encourage, and in some cases mandate, a mediated resolution of disputes wherever possible. Small claims mediation, when successful, allows courts to resolve disputes without costly and time-consuming litigation clogging up court dockets. For plaintiffs and defendants, it has the advantage of saving time and money and the ability to come to a mutually agreed upon result, rather than having a court impose a resolution.
Small claims mediation is especially useful when your dispute is with a friend, neighbor, customer, partner, or anyone else with whom you want to keep good ongoing relations. It's a good method of resolving disputes in a more amicable manner.
Mediation is a party-driven conflict resolution process aimed at reaching a mutually agreeable solution to a dispute. The process is typically voluntary (though courts do mandate the process under certain circumstances) and the parties communicate directly to each other, with a mediator serving as a sort of referee, making sure that the parties stay on course toward achieving a resolution. The result must be mutually agreed upon by the parties to be final.
Mediation is often desirable because the parties control the outcome. During mediation, underlying issues between the parties may be brought to the forefront in order to resolve the dispute at issue.
How Does Mediation Work?
Once a small claim has been filed in court and served to the other party, the court may mandate or strongly recommend mediation, or one of the parties may request mediation. A party can request small claims mediation through the administrative system where the claim was filed or the small claims mediation service, if the court has one.
Is Mediation Right for Me?
Mediation is most successful for those parties who wish to maintain relationships with each other after the case is resolved. Taking part in an acrimonious case before a judge often damages relationships beyond repair, so these parties typically get the most out of the process because they can share their frustrations and have a discussion about a range of issues that would not be allowed in court.