What is mediation?
It is a private, voluntary process in which an impartial person(s) facilitates communication between parties to promote settlement. In addition, it does not involve a decision by a mediator as they are not a judge, but rather a facilitator of dialogue.
Is mediation legally binding?
No. Mediators are not judges; it is their role to work with both parties to help determine a long term solution. The decision/agreement created is one that both parties have devised together. The final, signed written agreement is for your use and can not be used in court.
Are the mediations confidential?
Yes. All proceedings during mediation are confidential under the Arizona Revised Statutes 12-2238. When you send your application and information into the program, the administrative staff does not identify you to the Respondent. Once your information has been received and it is determined that both parties are willing to attend mediation, it is only at that time, through the mediation confirmation letter that your last name is identified.
When the mediation is conducted, there are other confidentiality issues that are addressed. At the beginning of the mediation, all parties will be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement. This states that the parties agree not to discuss the mediation or its proceedings outside of the mediation session. We need to ensure that all parties feel safe to openly discuss their concerns without prejudice.
Once a case is initiated with the program and the Respondent is notified of the situation, do we need to go to formal mediation?
Not always. Many times the Respondent is not aware that the situation exists and will make the necessary steps to address the problem on their own. We will give them a grace period to resolve the matter. We then ask the complainant to follow up with us if it is not resolved. At that time, we will then touch base once again with the Respondent and request formal mediation so that both parties can resolve the matter together.
What if the Respondent does not respond by the 2-week deadline established in the first letter? Then what?
After the established deadline, it is the Complainant’s responsibility to contact the mediation program to inquire as to whether or not the Respondent has replied. We can then send a second letter to the Respondent informing him/her that the matter may be turned over to the Police for further action. The Complainant will also receive a copy of this letter. Many times, the Respondent will immediately call and want to resolve the matter. However, if they still do not respond, it is the Complainant’s responsibility to contact the Police to report the matter if it concerns a City law. If the issue is not breaking a City ordinance, such as a landscape dispute, etc., then the Complainant may chose to go through the Justice Court or try to work on it on his/her own.
What if the other party simply declines mediation? Then what?
We would send a letter to the declining party noting that he/she has declined mediation as well as provide you a copy of this same letter for your files. Please keep in mind that this letter is a general form letter and does not detail the specifics of the case. Once again, if the case involves City laws, then the next step would be to contact the Police once you’ve received your copy of the letter.
What can I expect when I attend mediation?
When you arrive at the mediation location, which is noted on your confirmation letter, you will be in a room with up to two mediators, the other party, and yourself.
- The mediators will read the ground rules and review the confidentiality agreement. All parties must sign the confidentiality agreement before the session may proceed. If either party refuses to sign the confidentiality agreement, then the session will not continue and it will be noted who refused to sign. This will then be sent back to the program coordinator to keep on file. If all parties do sign, then the mediation can begin.
- The mediators will begin by asking one of the parties to explain the situation from their side without interruption. Then, the other side will be given this same opportunity.
- Through this process the mediators will work with both parties to hopefully find common ground. If it can be met, then the mediators will write up an agreement for both parties to sign.
- Not every mediation ends in an agreement. Do not feel forced to sign something you are not comfortable with, but keep in mind it will be your role to define what you are wanting. Most importantly, know that virtually all mediations require some level of compromise on behalf of each party and that a cooperative nature on both sides is the cornerstone of success.
What if we are not able to come to an agreement during the mediation process?
- If the case refers to a barking dog issue: If the dog starts barking again, the Complainant needs to contact the Police non-emergency number (480-312-5000) and show them the documentation that they went through mediation.
- If the case refers to an issue outside our city laws (landscape disputes, general neighbor-to-neighbor disputes), then either party may chose to go through the Justice Court if they feel that Court is the only way to resolve the issue. To schedule this, you may contact 480-443-6600. Otherwise the two parties can try to work on it directly, in a civil and polite manner, on their own.
If an agreement has been made, but not being adhered to, then what?
If both parties come to a written agreement, a time frame for correction should be written into the agreement. Give the person a chance to resolve the matter which may take a few days, depending on the issue, to get things adjusted. After the timeframe has passed, and the issue has not been resolved, then the parties may treat the issue the same as if an agreement had not been made during the actual mediation session.
Can’t you just tell my neighbor he/she is wrong and that they just need to do what we want?
No. It is not the role of the mediator to place judgment on either party member.
Can I bring a friend along?
No. Because mediations are confidential, the integrity of the process is protected. Unless the friend physically resides in the home of the Complainant, we generally do not allow additional people to attend. Likewise, the same holds true for the Respondents. We do not allow more than 2 people on either side as this is not a court case, and therefore we are not trying to build a jury.
Can I bring my attorney with me?
No. Once again, because this is not a court case or court proceedings, this falls within the same answer as “can I bring a friend”.
Who can I bring with me to the mediation process?
Either party may bring one additional person (for a total of 2 per side) with them as long as the additional person resides in the same household.
Do I bring evidence to the mediation?
Please keep in mind that this is not a court proceeding and is not set up for a hearing or for seeing evidence. It is meant for both sides to work together to find a solution to the established issue. However, you may bring items in which can help to further explain the issue. (Call log, a picture, etc…)
Where do the mediations take place?
All mediations are scheduled at a City facility nearest to your homes. Should mediation take place, a map and location will be sent to both parties along with the Letter of Confirmation.
How long do mediations take?
We always ask the parties to schedule at least 2 hours but it depends on the complexity of the issue(s).
Can I leave in the middle of the mediation if I want to?
No. It is encouraged that you stay throughout the mediation. If you leave early, the process will be voided and any result will need to be recorded for the purposes of any further action. It will also need to be noted that you were the party that left the mediation.
Why is mediation a better route than going through prosecution?
Mediation is generally a good option when trying to resolve matters peacefully with a neighbor or other party. In most circumstances you are living next door to this person and this is one of the most amicable ways to resolve it. In addition, by using the mediation process, the issue can be resolved in about a month, as opposed to 6-9 months through the court system.
What do the mediation services cost?
This service is provided free of charge to all residents of Scottsdale.