Court-appointed adjudication is a process whereby parties to a conflict are assigned to a court-appointed agent. If the agent is called a “mediator”, this can be a confusing title if mediation is not used. Here are some different methods commonly labeled “mediation”, but is something different:
Adjudication: To help save on time and resources in the court, a case is heard by the agent who makes a determination of the outcome. This method is akin to a surrogate judge, which can be helpful if a court date cannot be scheduled soon enough for the parties and the issues are easily conveyed. This can be cost effective as well, especially for cases where the adjudicator is an expert for all sides of the conflict and an ongoing relationship between the parties is not expected nor desired.
Arbitration: Similar to adjudication, but the arbitrator is entrusted to resolve the conflict for the parties involved, based on the information provided. The substance and data of the conflict are heard by this agent, who then analyses the information, develops outcome options, and makes a recommendation to the court. It takes time to understand an issue outside the court room, which is a benefit to a busy judge inside. This process aims to provide an outcome where the trusted agent can speak for all concerned to the court.
Mediation: This process is markedly different from arbitration in that the parties
- define the issues that are important,
- determine the criteria of a successful outcome,
- and create the solutions.
In mediation, the agent facilitates the process rather than contributing input. Upon conclusion, mediated agreements can be presented to the court as recommendations if necessary.
Mediation at its heart is voluntary. A solution created by empowered participants tends to last because parties feel ownership of their agreement.
Remember, the agent assigned by the court is tasked with finding the most expedient solution within the definition of the court’s jurisdiction and is acting in the best interest of the court’s responsibilities. If the court-assigned process allows participants to define the problem, create criteria for a livable solution and come up with options, participants can expect a positive outcome. However, not all jurisdictions have the capacity to create space for such participation. Issues involving emotions, relationships, unresolved history and expectations for the future may best benefit from multiple paths. Clients of the court should be made full aware of process options both within and outside the court system that will satisfy their needs.