If a court sends me to mediation, does that make it different?

When a court sends you to mediation, you should make a good faith effort to try to work out your differences during the mediation process. While the mediation is still not going to be legally binding, and in most cases you can stop it at any time and go back to court, it is still in your best interests to try to cooperate as much as possible. After all, if the judge sent you to mediation and then you refuse to even try, that's not going to earn you much favor with the person who ultimately does get to make decisions about your case.

The Mediation Process

Mediation is a non-binding form of alternative dispute resolution, unlike arbitration, which is binding. When a court sends you to mediation, you and the other party or parties involved in the dispute are going to be working with an independent third party. That person may be a mediator assigned or appointed by the court.

The mediator is going to help you talk out your differences in the hopes that an agreement can be reached. A mediator won't take sides, won't make orders, and won't issue a final or binding resolution. Their purpose isn't to give their opinion or to make a decision. It is to help you to communicate better, listen more openly, identify potential solutions, and find a solution that works best for all parties involved. 

If you are sent to mediation, aside from cooperating because you don't want to appear uncooperative, it is a good idea to make the effort (at the very least) if you can to come to an agreement. You'll have more say in a final resolution, which means you could end up with a decision that you are happier with than if a judge just tells you what to do. Furthermore, you may save money on the legal fees that accompany long, protracted litigation. 

Getting Help

If you are sent to court ordered mediation, you need to speak with a lawyer to find out if any specific rules apply in your state regarding that mediation. It is also in your best interests to have a lawyer on your side so you will understand what the law entitles you to in the dispute you are mediating.