Going to court can be so much more than it seems. Most people think of going to court as automatically going to trial and having a dramatic display of personal information. Really, court does not have to be that way at all. Depending on the type of case you are facing, there are several different ways to resolve disputes. Some of the most common ways are as follows:
- Negotiation. Once a case is filed in court, the two sides of the case can talk back and forth about what they want and how they are willing to compromise. Through a series of conversations and exchanges like this, they can reach an agreement on how to resolve the case without any legal proceedings. This process, which is usually done between lawyers representing the two parties, is called negotiation. When negotiating, emotions can run high on both sides. It is important to keep an objective eye on what is at stake in a negotiation, especially if several offers are exchanged back and forth. Successful negotiation generally results in what is commonly referred to as a “settlement.” When a case is settled through negotiation, the judge must approve the term of the settlement before it becomes official. This serves as a way of making sure the parties agree to something that is fair.
- Mediation. If the two parties do not want to get lawyers involved at all, then they may choose to mediate. In a mediation, the two sides of a case sit with a neutral third party who helps them have a conversation about the issues at hand. By opening up a dialogue and engaging in active listening, a mediator helps the parties reach a resolution that works for both of them. Mediation is particularly common in civil cases where money, property, and family matters are involved. Most mediators will go as far as helping the parties write up their agreement(s) on official court forms so that they are easy to push through without a lot of room for controversy after the mediation.
- Litigation. When the parties choose to leave the decisions in the hands of the court, then they turn toward litigation. This is when formal hearings and trials take place to determine the outcome of a dispute. In traditional litigation, each party tells the court what they want to happen. They then present evidence that shows the judge why they think their request should be granted. The judge takes an objective look at the evidence from both parties and makes a decision. Litigation is promising because it almost always guarantees a resolution to the dispute at hand. That being said, many people become frustrated with the formalities of litigation. For example, the law has certain rules about what may be used as evidence. Even if something is very convincing to a lay person, it may not be allowed in court.
- Collaboration. The practice of “collaborative” law is relatively new and unregulated. While some states have formal associations and processes for collaboration, we use this term to reflect another common method of conflict resolution at Jane Doe. When a client chooses to collaborate, we sit down with all parties and their attorneys to have a confidential conversation about the issues at hand and help the parties reach a resolution. Unlike a mediation, in a collaboration meeting, the facilitator(s) is/are not neutral. In fact, the meeting is generally run by the attorneys for each party. The goal is to find a solution that is in the legal best interests of the parties without the time and expense of going through formal court proceedings.
How you choose to resolve a conflict depends on you, your needs, and the willingness and cooperation of the other party. If there is something you particularly want or do not want, then you should communicate that with your lawyer up front. For example, some clients really want to go to trial even if their case could be resolved through a settlement. Conversely, some people really want to attempt mediation even if the other party is uncooperative or unreasonable. If you have strong feelings about how you want to address your case, you should discuss those feelings with your lawyer so that they can give you sound advice and help develop a case strategy accordingly.
The most important thing to remember is this: Regardless of how you choose to address the issues at hand, any of the methods above may lead to a court order that is legally enforceable. How you get to the end result has little to no effect on how much power the resulting decision has under the law.
Do you have questions about resolving a legal dispute?
If you have experienced any type of sexual abuse and have questions about the legal process in the aftermath of that abuse, you can CLICK HERE to schedule a no-cost phone consultation with an attorney at Jane Doe Advocacy Center.