Mediation is a process whereby the parties appear, either with their counsel or alone, with a third-party who helps facilitate a resolution to the parties issues and/or case. A Mediator is a non-biased individual who is either chosen by the parties or the parties are ordered to appear before such individual as a result of motion practice. There are a myriad of issues (college contributions, alimony and child support reductions, cohabitation, unreimbursed medical expenses, counsel fees, etc.) that can be resolved with the assistance of a mediator, and some courts can even use a court approved mediator to assist with domestic violence matters.
Spending time in court or going through the court’s process is very expensive and time consuming, making mediation the preferred alternative to settle cases or resolve issues both by the court and most attorneys. All litigants should consider a session with an experienced mediator and practitioners should be making that suggestion to every client before motions are filed.
But what happens once an agreement has been reached as a result of mediation? The parties should follow that written agreement. Pursuant to Willingboro Mall, Ltd. v. 240/242 Franklin Ave., L.L.C., 215 N.J. 242 (2013), a settlement agreement, reached in mediation, which is incorporated into a written and signed agreement is enforceable.
The first thing that should be done after reaching an agreement at mediation, prior to stepping foot outside of the mediator’s doors, is for the agreement to be reduced to writing and signed by both parties. To be fully protected, you and/or your attorney should not leave mediation without a signed agreement, if one is reached. As stated in Willingboro Mall, mediation should not be a prelude to further litigation. The purpose of mediation is to provide a cost effective solution to client’s issues.