There are two major alternative methods for business dispute resolution: mediation and arbitration.

Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution that is quite like a lawsuit in many ways. The only definitive difference is that instead of both sides making their respective cases in front of a judge, who is a public official you pay for with your tax dollars, they do so in front of an arbitrator, who is usually a private person that the two sides pay for on a 50/50 basis. Sometimes, there is a panel of three arbitrators, who are also paid privately by the two sides.

In arbitration, when the arguments finish, the arbitrator or arbitrators make a legally binding decision, just like a judge would.

Mediation is a form of dispute resolution that is more of a true alternative to litigation. The goal of mediation is to have both sides hear each other out, and to reach a compromise or a mutually agreeable settlement with the help of a third-party mediator. While arbitration is a binding decision made between two alternatives, mediation is a process of negotiation.

Often, mediation looks like the plaintiff sitting in one room with their lawyer and the defendant sitting in another room with their lawyer, with a mediator going back and forth. The mediator will make the case to each party that they ought to concede enough to reach a settlement with the other party, often advising against trying to pursue a courtroom trial on the strength of their argument alone. I’ve represented both defendants and plaintiffs in these matters, and have seen mediators facilitate from both ends.

Arbitration and mediation are usually pursued in different contexts. Arbitration is usually pursued when the parties don’t want to go through a whole court trial, but they also have an intractable point that they disagree about that needs to be decided by a binding authority. For instance, arbitration may be used in contexts where the parties don’t agree on the terms of their contract, or where there are conflicts having to do with labor issues.

Mediation, on the other hand, is often pursued as a stopgap or a stepping stone before trial. In some civil cases in both Wisconsin state and federal courts, judges will order the parties to attempt mediation before the case can be heard in a full trial. This means that they will have to go through the mediation process whether they want to or not. Mediation can be very useful when both parties are genuinely interested in reconciliation or settlement, rather than burning the bridge between them.

What Types Of Personal Disputes Does Your Firm Typically Handle?

One type of personal dispute that our firm handles is real estate disputes. They have to do with people fighting over real estate in one way or another. It might be about boundary line issues. It might be that there’s something wrong with the deed to a property, or somebody goes back on a contract to sell a house. We also handle some landlord/tenant issues.

While I don’t personally draft wills, I have also dealt with will disputes. I remember one case I dealt with years ago that involved wills and was especially dramatic. There was a family with a number of siblings, and one of the brothers had gone to prison for some felonies. By the time he got out, his mom was dead, and his dad had Alzheimer’s.

This man started fighting with his siblings pretty much the moment he got out of prison, including suing one of the sisters for all of their dad’s guns. Allegedly, his father had left the guns to him in an oral contract before he got sick. I don’t know why he thought he was going to get the guns back when he was a convicted felon (and therefore legally could not possess them), but we still wound up fighting over it.

In the middle of all of this, the dad died. Lo and behold, what did the dad do shortly before he died? He changed his will to disinherit all of the siblings but the one brother. Of course, he was being manipulated by the brother and was not of sound mind to change his will, but the brother was proceeding as if the will was valid. Our firm represented the other siblings against their brother, and eventually came to a reasonable settlement. But it took a lot of very bitter fighting between lawyers as well as clients.

I also don’t handle divorces, but I deal with property disputes that stem from divorce cases. For instance, we represented a client who got divorced from his ex-wife 30 years beforehand. He got the house in the divorce, but never bothered to get his ex-wife to sign so he could get her name off the deed. 30 years passed and both ex-spouses were long since remarried, and our client decided to do some financing to remodel the house. Unfortunately, he needed to get his ex-wife to either sign off on that financing or take her name off the deed in order for it to be approved. Even after all that time and remarriage, the ex-wife so disliked our client that she refused to do it for some time. Thankfully, we were able to settle with the ex-wife pre-trial, so we never had to go to court with her, but that’s the sort of property dispute that can come from divorce cases, even all those years later.

For more information on Business Litigation in Wisconsin, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (920) 754-3944 today.

T. Wickham Schmidt, Esq. A Professional Service Corporation

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