Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Dec 16, 2019

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.

We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.

Mediation is an out of court process where a neutral mediator listens to both parties in a prospective case and helps them reach an agreement. There are two types of mediators, a private mediator and a court-appointed mediator, each of which determines the mediator’s role and whether or not they have the ability to make recommendations to the courts.

Private Mediators

The first type of mediator is a private mediator. This mediator is hired completely outside of court, sometimes due to a contractual requirement to mediate. The mediator is neither directed by the court nor are they allowed to deal with the court in any way. In fact, unless this mediator is an attorney, they cannot even file your paperwork to describe an agreed upon settlement to the court.

In California, for example, mediators are specifically forbidden from making any “report, assessment, evaluation, recommendation, or finding” concerning the mediation. While California mediators may express their views to you in a private session, they cannot tell the court what they think of your case. 

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Court-Appointed Mediators

The second type of mediator is a court-appointed mediator. Not all states even have this type of mediator and those that do are still in the process of defining their exact roles. This second type of mediator will file a report to the court detailing how the court-appointed mediation went and in many cases may be instructed to make a recommendation to the court if the parties did not reach an agreement on their own.

Looking back at California mediators is a good way to see the difference. On the California court-appointed divorce mediator website it states: “The mediator’s job is to make recommendations to the judge. In some counties, if you and the other parent can’t agree on a parenting plan through mediation, the mediator is asked to give the court a written recommendation. It will contain the mediator’s opinion about what parenting arrangement will be in your child’s best interest.” 

Mediation Process 

The mediation process is still a work in progress in most states. In fact, most states do not have specific rules about what a mediator can tell a court, so it’s very important for you to find out whether the mediator has any authority or requirement to report to a court before mediation begins. If you feel uncomfortable with the mediator’s role, you have the right to refuse mediation and instead move the case directly to trial.

Getting Help

If you have any questions or concerns about your state’s mediation process, contact a trial attorney in your area for guidance as to whether mediation would be a useful tool for your case.