California’s courts and public policy have consistently been promoters of mediation. It’s always recommended for citizens to resolve disputes through reasonable voluntary actions that reflect their democratic values. But, what exactly is California mediation law and what does it involve? How does the new law change the act of mediation? Below we explore what mediation is, the new California mediation law, and the changes you’ll see as a result of this law.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is often referred to as ADR (or alternative dispute resolution). This is when parties involve a neutral third-party to help settle a conflict. One of the main goals of mediation is to keep the dispute out of the courts. The objective third-party, referred to as a mediator, will assist each party in arriving at a reasonable compromise. A mediator serves a very important role in the world of law. They have the responsibility of explaining different viewpoints and perspectives of the conflict. Through meditation, the litigants utilize the help of the mediator to negotiate and find a resolution that works for everyone. Unfortunately, mediation doesn’t always work the way it should. Some cases can have severe complexities that deem it necessary to be resolved in the courts. However, people continue to go through mediation because it can save thousands of dollars and give litigants more control over their negotiations.
What is the New California Mediation Law?
Now that you have an idea what mediation involves, it’s easier to understand how the new law affects the already existing mediation procedure. The new California mediation law, which will take effect on January 1st, 2019, involves confidentiality. Before a client agrees to mediation, their lawyer must provide them with specific paperwork that is separate from their other documents. This document will outline the mediation confidentiality restrictions and a client must sign it to acknowledge their full understanding of how confidentiality will work throughout mediation. Basically, this new law lays the groundwork for informed consent prior to a client agreeing to go to mediation. The new California mediation law requires attorneys to clearly explain what mediation communication can and can’t be used in future proceedings.
What the New California Mediation Law Includes
A new sample form has been generated for attorneys and their clients to use to understand the new law. This sentence reflects the central goal of the new California mediation law: “I, _____________ [Name of Client], understand that, unless all participants agree otherwise, no oral or written communication made during a mediation, or in preparation for a mediation, including communications between me and my attorney, can be used as evidence in any subsequent non-criminal legal action including an action against my attorney for malpractice or an ethical violation.” For most people, this can sound a bit like confusing legalese, but essentially it states that communication between the client, attorney, and mediator remains confidential. The senator that signed this into law, Senator Wieckowski, wanted an extra layer of protection and understanding for clients in California. He wanted there to be a clearer acknowledgment of the implications of excluding mediation discourse from being used in future cases. The senator and his aides worked with many organizations that would be directly affected by the new law. These included, but are not limited to, the State Bar, California Lawyers Association, California Judges Association, Judicial Council, Consortium for Children, Conference of California Bar Associations, California Dispute Resolution Council, Consumer Attorneys of California, and California Defense Council.
What to Expect With the New Law
Overall, there’s not a lot that will change regarding the way in which mediation is carried out. For those who might be seeking mediation, the basics will still exist. You will still be required to meet with the neutral third-party, a mediator, to discuss the details of your case. You will still be able to negotiate and depend on the legal advice from your attorney. Then only thing that will change in the case of mediation is what happens prior to mediation taking place. Attorneys will be required to thoroughly review the implications of mediation communication and confidentiality requirements with their clients. Once a client proves they know and understand the details in the new California mediation law, they’ll sign a document that shows evidence of this acknowledgment. If you are going through a divorce or a civil dispute, mediation is often recommended as a reasonable and popular path to resolutions. While it may not be a blanket resolution to all disputes, it can be a valuable option for those who wish to stay out of the California courts. If you or someone you know is looking for legal representation and a process to mediation, call your local legal experts for help today. Be sure to discuss the new California mediation law with your attorney and make sure you understand your rights during the mediation process.