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June 28, 2019

Mediation vs. Arbitration: What’s the Difference?

When two parties are involved in a legal matter such as a divorce, personal injury claim or business dispute, they may prefer to resolve the issue without going to court. A process known as alternative dispute resolution (ADR) can offer an alternative to pursuing time-consuming and costly litigation.

In South Carolina, all civil cases must undergo an ADR process. Negotiation, where the two sides attempt to work directly with each other (with or without attorneys) to reach an agreement, is the first step. If negotiating does not produce an agreement, the parties may then move on to mediation or arbitration.

Mediation Definition

Mediation is a process where the two sides try to settle a dispute with the help of an impartial third party, referred to as the mediator. This individual is often an active or retired attorney or judge or a professionally trained mediator. The mediator has no power to make a ruling and does not try to “force” a settlement. In a typical mediation session, the mediator facilitates a discussion between the two parties and attempts to guide them to a mutually beneficial understanding.

Benefits of mediation as an alternative dispute resolution technique include that it:

  • Fosters open communication that can often lead to a positive outcome with minimal discord
  • Focuses on problem-solving and resolution from the clients’ perspective
  • Saves time and is relatively cost-effective
  • Focuses on the best interests of both parties
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Arbitration Definition

Arbitration is a more formal and structured ADR process than mediation. The court appoints a professional arbitrator to preside at a hearing where both sides make their case. The arbitrator then makes a ruling in favor of one of the parties based on the information presented during the hearing. The two types or arbitration are binding, which means that both sides must abide by the arbitrator’s decision, and non-binding, which means they can either accept the ruling or pursue further legal action.

The benefits of the arbitration process include the following:

  • Like mediation, arbitration allows the parties to resolve the issue in private without going to court.
  • Binding arbitration provides finality, which is advantageous when both parties want to resolve the matter expeditiously and move on with their lives.
  • Both parties select the arbitrator, which increases the likelihood that they’ll view the ruling as fair and impartial.
  • The process is much less expensive than going to court.
  • The parties have the opportunity to define the issues that the arbitrator will hear and rule upon.
  • Unlike a court trial, the parties can select the day, time and place of the arbitration hearing.
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Getting Help in Understanding the Difference Between Mediation and Arbitration

If you’re in or near Charleston, South Carolina and facing an alternative dispute resolution situation, Lauren Taylor Law can help. Attorney Taylor has extensive experience in handling mediation and arbitration matters involving divorce and other legal issues. She can assist you in exploring your options and pursuing the best course of action.

Contact Lauren Taylor Law to learn more today.