If you have filed a small claims case in the Magistrate Court of Fulton County and have shown up to have your day in court, you may quickly learn that you will actually have a full day in court. That means you may show up before 9:00 AM and not leave until 4:00 PM. Also, there may be times where the judge tells you that she does not have time for your case and you will be re-scheduled for another court date. In an attempt to prevent this from happening, Fulton County courts, along with most courts, encourage the parties to engage in mediation prior to coming to court. In fact, many courts require the parties to participate in mediation prior to coming to court.
Mediation is a non-binding process where both parties sit down with an impartial mediator in an attempt to find a resolution to their case. Each side, beginning with the plaintiff, may make an opening statement, and then the mediator will sit down with each party individually to discuss the case. A good mediator will not just point out the strong elements of your case, but, more importantly, will point out the weak elements of your case. Furthermore, when assessing your case, a good mediator will help inform you of what you will need to prove in court to win your case. Often times, knowing you are right and being able to prove it are two different things. And if you do not have the information or ability to prove your case in court, it does not matter how right you may be.
A benefit of mediation is it provides an opportunity to reach a resolution that is agreeable to both parties. That is in contrast with going to court, where one party will most likely win and one party will most likely lose. That being said, if you choose to participate in mediation, you should go in with an open mind. If you are not going to be willing to listen to what the other party has to say, or are not going to be willing to reach a compromise whether in terms of value or time, you are better off not participating in mediation.
Michael Weinstein is an attorney with MBW Law, LLC in midtown Atlanta. He specializes in litigation, insurance coverage, landlord/tenant and employment law. Contact Mike at (404) 228-2629 or firstname.lastname@example.org.