What is Mediation?

“The courts of this country should not be the places where resolution of disputes begins. They should be the places where the disputes end after alternative methods of resolving disputes have been considered and tried.”

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor


Mediation is a confidential, private process where the parties meet with a mutually selected impartial and neutral person who assists them in the negotiation of their differences. The mediator’s job is to help the parties find common ground and achieve a mutually beneficial outcome without going to trial. Mediators will not disclose anything discussed during the mediation and cannot be subpoenaed if the dispute is not resolved and proceeds to trial.  Mediation is available in most non-criminal matters. In some criminal matters, such as non-violent crimes, mediation can often result in a successful resolution during mediation. 


Once a lawsuit is filed, mediation is ordered by the court at the scheduling conference. Montana Justice Court partners with a local mediation program that provides trained mediators. The court often orders mediation to be achieved after discovery is completed and before the pre-trial conference. Although the court may order mediation, it is a voluntary process, meaning any agreement reached is voluntary. Mediators do not decide a case and are not authorized to give legal advice or provide legal services. Mediations can last 30 minutes or several hours. During the process, you and the other party will have the opportunity to discuss what has happened leading up to the dispute, what is important to you, and discuss possible ways the case may be resolved.


Persons attending the mediation should have the authority to negotiate and enter into an agreement, such as yourself and your attorney. The mediators will ask questions and try to clarify issues to make sure each party is understood. If both parties come to a consensus, the mediator will outline the terms and may write up a draft agreement. If you fail to reach an agreement, the mediator will sum up where you have left off and may engage you in a discussion of your non-settlement alternatives, such as court with a judge.


If you have any questions about the process of mediation, give us a call at (406) 542-2233 and our experienced attorneys at Ryan Holloway & Miller can walk you through the entire process.