United States: Stop, Collaborate And Listen – Settlement In Mediation

Last Updated: December 16 2013
Article by Robert A. Epstein

The golden words in this blog title once spoken by Robert Van Winkle (more famously known by another name) could and should be well heeded by family lawyers and litigants when trying to settle a case.  So why, then, are they so often ignored?  I recently attended a mediation in a case where, as soon as I walked into the mediator's office, my adversary did not "stop" talking or arguing his client's position, did not "collaborate" with me, my client, or the mediator to facilitate a settlement, and did not "listen" to anyone other than himself.  Not surprisingly, the case did not settle.  Not surprisingly, the parties left dissatisfied with the outcome.  Not surprisingly, the only progress that was made was when my client made proposals on various issues, since the other party refused to do so.  In fact, it was clear from the moment that we started the mediation that the other party had no intention on settling at all – a sentiment that I made clear in requesting to leave so that my client did not incur more counsel fees than she already had.

Considering that the point of mediation is to actually settle a case, or to move towards a settlement, it always surprises me when this sort of conduct occurs, even in the wild world of family law.   With that in mind, let's break down the three components as they relate to settling in mediation:

STOP:  It is no surprise that family law cases can often be quite acrimonious, with attorneys frequently arguing with each other at least as much as the parties.  Such conduct, however, ultimately serves no one.  Worse, one or both parties/attorneys often feel the need to essentially "run" the mediation by only allowing their points to be heard, talking over the other party/attorney, interrupting the other party/attorney while feigning insult should the same happen while he or she is talking, etc.  At the mediation I reference above, the other attorney seemed to believe that if he was the first person to assert his client's position, it somehow meant more to the mediator.  The same can be said for the amount of time that he spoke - i.e., he believed that the longer he spoke, the more important his client's position became. In that world, the case simply will not settle, and will only heighten the acrimony.  To that point...

COLLABORATE:  The entire point of mediation is to settle your case.  While you as the litigant may not agree with or like the other party or attorney (also very common), use your best efforts to work together, in a collaborative fashion, to achieve a meeting of the minds on the issues in your case.  Consider the positions being taken by the other party and, if reasonable, work with those positions to reach a compromise.  If you and your spouse are starting in a different "universe", then there is only so far you can go.  If you are on Mars and she is on Venus, however, then keep the momentum going.  Ultimately, a good settlement is one that neither party is happy with because each side gave in on certain issues.  If one party refuses to budge, the case will continue, which is sometimes what that party wants to force the other party to give in, incur more fees, and the like.  In the mediation I reference above, the other party was completely unwilling to convey his prior settlement position to the mediator because he had obviously taken a step backwards towards a more aggressive approach and did not want to make it seem as if he had previously been in a more reasonable place.  While a litigant is entitled to engage in such conduct, then why mediate at all unless your entire goal through the mediation forum is to send a stern "message" that you will not be denied in what you want.  These tactics are almost always transparent to the other party/attorney, and will only cause the other side to push back, and the litigation will continue.

LISTEN:  Parties in a divorce matter often do not want to listen to each other (worse, the lawyers may love listening to only what they have to say).  Typically, progress can only be made when both parties are willing to listen to each other, understand each other's position, and...collaborate.  I try to follow the mediator's lead, and always encourage my client to do so, to get a sense of the other party's intentions, while also providing the mediator with a level of respect that allows him or her the best opportunity to successfully perform the stated task of settling the case.  I found it interesting that in the mediation I reference above, my adversary outright refused to allow his client to talk, even when his thoughts or suggestions may have been helpful towards reaching a resolution.  Literally, for four hours, the other party sat silent in a room with his attorney, myself, my client and the mediator.  When the client spoke up and offered something useful, his lawyer would chime in that he really should stop speaking.  Again, what is the point of attending a mediation if there is no intention on actually settling, unless the only ploy is to scare the other party or send a message that there will be no compromise.

While no one can force a party to settle, the New Jersey court system certainly mandates parties to try and do so many times before a trial may ultimately occur.  Rather than wasting everyone's time and money by turning a mediation into a private trial, better serve yourself and your wallet by working towards a resolution in mediation, rather than away from one.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Robert A. Epstein
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Berman Fink Van Horn P.C.
Moritt, Hock & Hamroff LLP
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Berman Fink Van Horn P.C.
Moritt, Hock & Hamroff LLP
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions