Civil, Estates, and Family Law Voluntary Mediation
Mediation is the most common form of alternative dispute resolution. In mediation, an impartial person called a "mediator" assists the parties reaching a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute. The mediator does not decide the dispute but helps the parties communicate so they can try to settle the dispute themselves. Mediation leaves control of the outcome with the parties. Mediation may have a variety of benefits, depending on the circumstances of the particular case. Some potential benefits of mediation are summarized below.
- Save Time - Disputes can be settled or decided much sooner; often in a matter of months, even weeks, bringing a lawsuit to trial can take a year or more.
- Save Money - Parties may save some of the money they would have spent on attorney fees, court costs, expert fees, and other litigation expenses.
- Influence Over the Process and Outcome - Parties typically play a greater role in shaping both the mediation process and its outcome. Parties have more of an opportunity to tell their side of the story than they do at trial. Mediation allows the parties to determine creative resolutions that are not available in a trial.
- Preserve Relationships - Mediation can be a less adversarial and hostile way to resolve a dispute. For example, an experienced mediator can help the parties effectively communicate their needs and point of view to the other side. This can be an important advantage where the parties have a relationship to preserve.
- Increase Satisfaction - In a trial, there is typically a winner and a loser. The loser is not likely to be happy, and even the winner may not be completely satisfied with the outcome. Mediation can help the parties find win-win solutions and achieve their real goals. This, along with other potential advantages, may increase the parties' overall satisfaction with both the dispute resolution process and the outcome.
- Improve Attorney-Client Relationships - Attorneys may also benefit from mediation by being seen as problem-solvers rather than combatants. Quick, cost-effective, and satisfying resolutions are likely to produce happier clients and thus generate repeat business from clients and referrals of their friends and associates.
Voluntary Mediation Program Details
The court voluntary mediation program was developed in partnership with the Napa County Bar Association.
All civil, probate, trusts, estates, guardianship, conservatorship, and family law cases are eligible if all parties agree to participate. (Custody and visitation issues in family law cases are mediated through Family Court Services.)
Mediator Qualifications and Services
The mediation panel members have all met certain mediation training and experience requirements. Members have agreed to provide the first three hours of three mediations a year free of charge to the participants. Additionally, mediators and parties may agree to a fee for any time incurred after the first three hours.
Parties to the dispute may request a referral to the court mediation process at the Case Management Conference or at any other time, provided participation in the mediation does not extend any dates or time lines for discovery, filing of motions, or trial date. In order to begin the process, a Stipulation Re: Voluntary Mediation needs to be filed with the court’s Mediation Program Coordinator. The parties shall select a mediator and contact the mediator directly.
The mediator is responsible for promptly conducting a conflict check, accepting or declining the assignment, and contacting the parties to confirm a date, time, and place for mediation. All mediation activity must be completed within 60 days from the date of referral to mediation. The mediation shall be conducted in accordance with the Civil, Estates, and Family Law Mediation Guidelines, and the mediator is responsible for assuring completion of all related forms.
The parties may agree to mediate their dispute with a mediator of their choice without court assistance. The cost of mediation must be borne by the parties and the parties will be charged an amount set by the mediator. For private mediation, please contact the selected mediator directly.