What is Mediation?
Mediation is a discussion between parties in front of a mediator (neutral third party) that aims to settle any and all outstanding matters between the two disputing parties. What is said during mediation will be kept confidential, and will be said without prejudice – What this means is that anything mentioned during the mediation cannot be used as evidence in Court, should it escalate to that level.
There are various types of mediation available for Civil and Family matters in Singapore. Such services are provided by the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC). It is important to take note that in certain circumstances, mediation is mandatory (for example in divorce proceedings). As such you may opt to attend mediation or be ordered to go for mediation by the Singapore Courts – in either scenario; it is advisable to engage a lawyer to assist you so that you are clear on your legal position.
When Must I Go For Mediation?
If your case is being handled in the State Courts of Singapore, you may request for mediation only if all parties (the Plaintiff and the Defendant) agree to having their matter resolved through mediation. On the other hand, a Judge may also refer your case for mediation where appropriate.
You should personally attend your first mediation session whether you have a lawyer or not unless your case concerns a motor accident, wherein your lawyer will generally represent you. Where your organisation has to attend mediation sessions, you should appoint a representative authorised to settle the dispute on behalf of your organisation. This representative must have the necessary authority to agree or accept or even propose means for parties to settle the dispute.
What happens before Mediation?
Before mediation commences, you and the other party will sign an agreement that will bind you to the terms and process of mediation. Following that, mediation will terminate when and if:
- A written settlement agreement is drawn up
- Either party gives a notice of withdrawal in writing to the SMC, the mediator, and the other party
- The mediator decides that further mediation would be of no or very little benefit to the case.
Should I Apply or even Agree to Mediation?
The success rates for mediation have consistently been high, so the answer to this will depend heavily on what solution you are looking for.
Mediation provides a more flexible, informal and yet private environment for you and the other party to explore your concerns and reach a mutually acceptable compromise. The solutions available to you include those that the law cannot deliver, such as apologies or a business-driven resolution.
It will generally be less costly to you because of the shorter time spent on resolving the dispute. This is especially so for civil cases, where you will save on legal fees that would have been spent on a trial. Thus, mediation would be better if you are looking for a generally cheaper and faster way to resolve your dispute.
However, mediation cannot grant the Court’s decision on a legal issue, and will not be helpful if one or both parties are not entering mediation in good faith.
Who Conducts the Mediation?
The mediator will be a neutral third person chosen by the SMC – this person will either be a Judge in the State Courts Centre for Dispute Resolution or a volunteer mediator. He or she will have been trained to facilitate your negotiations professionally and will not Judge either of the participating parties.
While the mediator is there to assist with finding the best outcome and in writing down any settlement agreement, it is still very much up to the parties involved to come to a resolution. Both parties may bring in advisors, such as a lawyer, into mediation sessions if they so wish.
If you object to the mediator appointed and have a valid reason for it, you may inform the SMC, and another mediator will be appointed.
What Should I Prepare for Mediation?
At least five days before your first session, you should provide the other party, the mediator, and the SMC with the following:
- A concise summary of your case
- Copies of all documents to be used as support for your case during mediation
- Any information you want to be kept private from the other party, written down with clear instructions on confidentiality and submitted to the mediator and the SMC
You should agree with the other party on the maximum number of pages to be used in your case summaries, as well as the maximum number of pages of supporting documents to be used. It would also be helpful if you agree on a joint set of documents to submit.
What to expect during mediation?
Throughout your meditation sessions, you and the other party will have control over the process and the outcome. You can expect to be working with the other party and contributing a lot to the negotiations.
Structure-wise, mediation will start with an exchange of statements by both parties, before the key issues are laid out and framed by the mediator during Agenda Setting. After this, you and the other party will be asked to come up with and discuss possible solutions to your dispute. If necessary, the mediator will then meet privately and separately with you and the other party to, for example, talk about any concerns.
If you and the other party have found an acceptable solution, joint negotiations will be conducted to clarify and finalise the terms of the settlement agreement. When this agreement is signed, mediation will terminate, and you and the other party will have to fulfil your obligations under the agreement.
Not more than three sessions are required to reach a resolution; this figure is, however, heavily dependent on how open you and the other party are to seeking a compromise and settling the matter fast.
What Happens If Mediation Fails?
On the whole, it is best that a settlement agreement is drawn up, but there is always the chance that such an agreement cannot be reached.
If mediation is terminated because one party withdrew or the mediator has Judged that your dispute cannot be settled, your case may be put on trial. You and the other party will be directed on the necessary steps to take and informed of the relevant time frames. The Judge who acted as mediator, if applicable, will not be the Judge at trial, so nothing shared in mediation will be made known to the trial Judge.
On the other hand, if you are under the Med-Arb scheme, mediation will progress to arbitration according to your predetermined timeline, and you will have less control over the outcome of your dispute.
How We Can Help
Though it seems like a simple discussion, understanding your legal position so you know exactly what you can ask for will give you a clear advantage. At I.R.B. Law, we have experienced lawyers ready and willing to guide you through and explain to you throughout each and every stage of the proceedings clearly.
Do not hesitate to contact us via [email protected] or call us at 65 89 8913 to get the quality assistance you deserve. First consultation is usually free.