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Superior Court of California - County of San Diego: Small Claims: Small Claims Mediation Services: Small Claims Mediation FAQs
    

Small Claims Mediation - Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is mediation?
  2. Is it really free?
  3. Can the mediator speak Spanish?
  4. When is mediation appropriate?
  5. When may mediation be inappropriate?
  6. What is the role of the mediator?
  7. Is mediation confidential?
  8. How long does a mediation last, and how do I prepare?
  9. What if we don't settle our dispute in mediation?
10. Where can I get more information about small claims mediation?

1. What is mediation?

Mediation is a confidential, voluntary process in which a trained mediator acts as a neutral person who facilitates communication between individuals who have a dispute, and assists parties in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of all or part of their dispute. The mediator is not the decision-maker and does not resolve the dispute -- the parties do. A mediator is often able to more fully explore the parties' underlying interests, needs and priorities. Mediation is a flexible and less formal process that may reduce the time and costs often associated with a formal trial. If an agreement is reached, the parties can agree to make it legally enforceable.

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2. Is it really free?

If your dispute is in Central, the National Conflict Resolution Center may be able to provide mediation services without any cost to you or the other party.

If your dispute is in North County, North County Lifeline may be able to provide mediation services without any cost to you or the other party.

These providers have contracted with the County of San Diego pursuant to the Dispute Resolution Program Act, Business and Professions Code, Division 1, Chapter 8 (commencing with section 465) (as operative January 1, 2007), which funds local dispute resolution programs and pays for these services.

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3. Can the mediator speak Spanish?

You can request a mediator who is fluent in Spanish, and if both parties agree, the mediation can be conducted in Spanish.

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4. When is mediation appropriate?

You can have your case mediated either before or after a small claims case has been filed. If you mediate before filing a case and an agreement is reached at the mediation, there will be no need to file a small claims case. If a case has already been filed, the agreement reached at the mediation can be entered into the court record without having to appear in court. You may also have an opportunity to mediate your case on the day of the hearing at the courthouse.

Mediation may be particularly useful when parties have a relationship they want to preserve. So when family members, neighbors, or business partners have a dispute, mediation may be the most effective alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process to use. Mediation is also effective when emotions are getting in the way of resolution. An effective mediator can hear the parties and help them communicate with each other in an effective and constructive manner.

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5. When may mediation be inappropriate?

Mediation may not be effective if one of the parties is unwilling to cooperate or compromise. Mediation also may not be effective if one of the parties has a significant advantage in power over the other. Therefore, mediation may not be a good choice if the parties have a history of abuse or victimization.  Back to Top

6. What is the role of the mediator?

The mediator is an impartial neutral intermediary whose role is to facilitate a discussion of the issues and perspectives of each party and help them reach an agreement. The mediator will not impose a settlement, but will assist the parties in exploring settlement options. Generally, the mediator does not communicate with the court except to file the parties' written agreement or stipulation.  Back to Top

7. Is mediation confidential?

Except as otherwise provided by the California Evidence Code or California law, all communications, negotiations, or settlement discussions in the course of a mediation or mediation consultation are confidential and are not admissible or subject to discovery without agreement of the parties.  Back to Top

8. How long does a mediation last, and how do I prepare?

Usually, mediation of a small claims dispute lasts anywhere between 30 minutes and two hours. You should be prepared to discuss all relevant issues in your case. You should be prepared to state your position and to listen carefully to the other side. Persuasive and forceful communication is permitted, but civility and mutual respect is vital. Hostile or argumentative tactics are likely to cause positions to become entrenched and thus discourage progress.  Back to Top

9. What if we don't settle our dispute in mediation?

If you and the other party are unable to reach a full agreement at the mediation, your case or any unresolved issues will still be decided by the Commissioner or Temporary Judge assigned to your small claims case on the same day your hearing was originally scheduled. If you mediate your dispute before filing a small claims case, but don't reach a full agreement, you can still file a small claims case with the court.

Your claim may be time-sensitive, so you may want to check with your attorney or with the Small Claims Advisor to determine when you have to file your case. You can visit the Small Claims Advisor in person at each of the court locations (except Ramona) or call (858) 634-1777. This is a free service.  Back to Top

10. Where can I get more information about small claims mediation?

If your dispute is in Central, please contact the National Conflict Resolution Center at (619) 238-2400.

If your dispute is in North County, please contact North County Lifeline at (760) 726-4900 ext. 228.  Back to Top



 


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