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Conflict Resolution Week: Mediation

The third week of October has been declared Conflict Resolution Week in North Carolina. Along with the many forms of conflict resolution, this week emphasizes the importance and efficiency of mediation as a form of dispute resolution. Mediation is a process where the parties have the opportunity to discuss conflicts through a neutral third-party mediator and resolve their disputes out-of-court, avoiding the time and expense of a drawn-out trial before a judge.

Mediation programs were enacted in North Carolina as early as 1989. Since 1995, mediation conferences have been required for civil actions filed with the Superior Court across the entire state. Mediation can benefit parties in all types of civil claims, from business matters to family conflict. Many cases settle during the mediation conference and never need to proceed to trial, allowing disputes to be resolved through a much quicker and, often, less-expensive process. In 2019-2020, nearly 5,000 cases completed the mediation process, and approximately 40% of those cases settled all of their issues in the pre-trial conference. Settlement through mediation also allows for more flexibility and creativity in finding a solution that works for both parties.

Mediations in North Carolina are conducted by certified mediators, who must complete at least 40 hours of training and meet supplemental educational and training requirements in order to receive certification. Mediators are held to their own set of professional conduct rules adopted by the Supreme Court of North Carolina and have a duty of confidentiality subject to limited exceptions. However, parties with additional confidentiality concerns may also impose a separate pre-conference confidentiality agreement.

Many of these mediators are also licensed attorneys, while others may be non-attorneys with extensive mediation and professional experience. The parties may choose their mediator or else ask the court to appoint one. While the mediator facilitates discussion, the parties remain in charge of all agreements. There will only be a settlement when both parties mutually agree to the resolution. Of course, parties can still be represented by their own attorneys during mediation conferences to ensure consideration of their best interests. If you or someone you know is looking for an attorney to guide them through the mediation process, give Vennum Law a call!

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