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Mediation / Arbitration (And why you still need a lawyer)

By Edward A. Brown, Esquire

There are many so-called "alternate dispute resolution" mechanisms available in Maine. Mediation with a court mediator is required in any family law matter before the case may go to trial. That is, if the parties do not agree on all issues, they have to attend mediation in an attempt to resolve their dispute. In general, the requirement of mediation is helpful, because it forces the parties to actually talk to each other.

The difference between mediation and arbitration is that, in mediation, the neutral third party (mediator) has no power to impose a decision on the parties.

Arbitration is where the parties agree to let a privately hired third party actually decide their case. The perceived advantage of private arbitration over the Court system is that it can be more informal, speedy, and possibly less expensive. While the parties may agree to attend arbitration after any dispute arises, arbitration is often required by a prior contract between the parties (construction and employment contracts are typical examples).

There are many private mediators (as opposed to the Court mediators) and many persons offering arbitration services in the state of Maine. These alternate dispute resolution mechanisms can work well where the parties still have some measure of trust and respect for each other, but it is almost always advisable for each party to have an attorney.

Even though you may not want to have your attorneys present at the actual mediation or arbitration sessions (so as to avoid bluster, confrontation and defensiveness, stonewalling or "digging in of the heels") each party should have reviewed the case with an attorney of their own choosing so that they are aware of all of their possible options. In any negotiating session it is imperative to have some idea of what a Judge would decide, so that you know the strengths and weaknesses of your own case. Only an experienced attorney can provide this to you. You should feel free to ask your mediator or arbitrator to let you consult with your attorney at any stage of the proceedings, and you should always do so before making any agreements.

With a general practice of law concentrating in matters concerning Divorce, Custody and Support. Mr. Brown is distinguished by his high level of personal service provided at reasonable costs to you. Aside from family law, his office handles a wide variety of litigation matters, including spousal torts, personal injury and sexual abuse claims as well as non litigation matters. Mr. Brown appears regularly in all local Courts, and is admitted to practice in both Maine and Massachusetts

He can be contacted by phone at 207-721-1010 or
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