UNITED STATES—As more and more people share their lives with companion animals, disputes concerning those animals occur with increasing frequency—between animal people and their veterinarians, groomers, day care centers and kennels, between neighbors and landlords and tenants, between separating or divorcing domestic partners and of course between dog guardians and bite victims. In most cases, mediation provides the ideal setting and process for resolving these disputes—far superior to filing a lawsuit. The mediation process resolves issues quickly, privately and economically—something the courts simply cannot do. And all without having to hire a lawyer.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a process in which a neutral third person—known as a mediator—facilitates communication between disputing parties, enabling them to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that reflects both parties' needs and interests.
Why is mediation better than filing a lawsuit?
1. In a lawsuit, the lawyers and judges control everything. In mediation, the parties are in control of both the process and the outcome. Because the parties fashion their own settlement agreements, they're free to develop creative solutions that work for both of them.
2. Lawsuits concludes with an order for one side to pay money to the other—or not. A successful mediation concludes with an agreement reflecting both sides' needs and interests.
3. Lawsuits are very stressful because the process is highly adversarial and the outcome is always uncertain. By contrast, opposing parties in mediation are treated with compassion, courtesy and respect. And when both parties participate in good faith, the resulting agreement is a result both sides are comfortable with.
4. Mediations are usually completed in one day—litigation can take years.
5. Mediations are final because their agreement prevents both sides from taking further legal action. Verdicts can be appealed, and that means a dispute can go on for years.
6. In litigation, every document filed with the court becomes a matter of public record, and testimony is given in open court, which means open to the public. By contrast, statements made and documents used in mediation are, with very few exceptions, confidential. There is no public access, and if parties fail to reach an agreement and a lawsuit later becomes necessary, statements and documents from the mediation cannot be used against either side as evidence.
7. Lawsuits can cost tens of thousands of dollars. A mediation costs hundreds, with the mediator's fee being shared equally by the parties.
What does the mediator do?
The mediator is an impartial, neutral intermediary that helps people resolve their dispute themselves, by creating and executing a legally binding agreement. Mediators use a variety of techniques to help parties explore their underlying interests, develop creative solutions and negotiate mutually satisfactory solutions. The mediator does not impose terms on the parties, but rather facilitates communication allowing the parties to discover what works best for them.
Diane Parrish, founder of Companion Mediation Service, has been a litigator for 14 years—focusing primarily on companion animal issues. Having become interested in dispute resolution through mediation, Ms. Parrish trained in facilitative, evaluative and transformative forms of mediation at Loyola Law School Center for Conflict Resolution and currently serves on the Los Angeles Superior Court Mediation Panel. To learn more about mediation, contact Diane Parrish at 818-766-5925.
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