Mediation FAQ

Mediation is a confidential, non-binding process in which a trained mediator acts as a neutral person who facilitates communication between disputants 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.

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 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.

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.

Find mediators on the court's Civil Mediation Panel List. Many private mediators and organizations offering mediation services have websites or advertise their services.

If parties agree to use a mediator on the court's Mediator Panel List, the mediator's hourly rate is limited to $150 per hour for the first two hours of mediation in a limited civil action and $250 per hour for the first two hours in an unlimited civil action. If the mediation session exceeds two hours, the parties will be charged the mediator's regular hourly rate thereafter. The mediator's charges are split between the parties.

If the parties choose a private mediator, they will be required to pay the mediator's regular rate for all services. The market rates for private mediators can range from $200-$1,000 per hour.

All parties, their counsel and persons with full authority to settle the case must personally attend the mediation, unless excused by the court for good cause. If consent to settle is required for any reason, the party with the consent authority must also be personally present at the mediation.

The mediator is an impartial neutral intermediary whose role is to help the participants reach a settlement. 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 a Statement of Agreement/Non-Agreement.

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.

You and your attorney should be prepared to discuss all relevant issues in your case. Before the mediation session, you and your attorney should discuss the mediation process and understand it is confidential and non-binding. 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. Some mediators also require pre-mediation briefs.

If you have a complaint or a concern about a mediator on the court's panel, please refer to the court's Mediator Complaint Procedure as stated in San Diego Superior Court Rule, which was developed pursuant to California Rule of Court 3.865.