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    What is Arbitration and Mediation?
    Arbitration and mediation are forms of alternative dispute resolution that seeks to resolve civil disputes outside of court. Most matters that are arbitrated or mediated include contract issues, personal injury claims, and divorce and custody disputes.

A mediation is a settlement conference where the parties meet with a mediator chosen by either the parties or the court who facilitates a process that enables the parties to reach a resolution of all or some of the issues in dispute. A mediator might ask the individual parties to present their cases to him or her, explain their strong and weak points, and then explore options with them to arrive at a resolution. It is not an adversarial process and no testimony is offered and witnesses are usually not presented to be examined or cross-examined.

If a settlement is reached, the parties will sign a written settlement agreement. If no agreement is reached, the parties may either continue with litigation in court or attempt arbitration. Mediation offers the parties an opportunity to control the result as well as to determine a more accurate position of the other party on any issue in dispute.

Arbitration may be binding or non-binding depending on the wishes of the parties. This process is faster and usually much less costly than a court or jury trial. The arbitration process, though, is a mini-trial where the parties choose one or more arbitrators to decide the case. Each party presents documents, exhibits, and witnesses who are subject to cross-examination before the arbitrator who may be an attorney, retired judge, or professional in the field, such as an engineer or scientist. Evidence is usually subject to the governing state's evidentiary rules.

At the close of evidence, the arbitrator or panel issues a legally-binding decision, which all parties are obligated to accept and is generally not appealable unless a party alleges fraud by the arbitrator or in the process itself.

In some cases, arbitration may be non-binding, which may occur in some personal injury cases in which a court requires the parties to participate.