The Mediation Act 2017 was enacted in October 2017. The Act is to be used to solve disputes through mediation rather than through the Courts.
Mediation is a process whereby the parties to a dispute, in the presence of a third-party mediator, meet to discuss, negotiate and hopefully settle upon an agreement. This is a confidential process. Mediation has been a widely used tool in Ireland in dispute resolution. The Act now promotes and supports the use of mediation as a dispute resolution method.
The Act places obligations on solicitors and barristers to advise their clients to consider using mediation. They must advise the client as to what mediation is, names of mediators providing the service and the benefits of mediation.
They must also sign a statutory declaration to say that they have fulfilled this obligation. Mediation is a voluntary process. Either party to the dispute can refuse to engage in mediation. It may not be suitable for every situation, however, courts may take into account parties’ refusal to engage in the process.
Mediation will allow for a less expensive and less stressful experience to dispute resolution than what the courts would provide. Prior to the mediation, the parties and the proposed mediator will prepare and sign an agreement to mediate.
This document contains details of when the mediation will take place, how the cost of the mediation will be split equally between the parties and that the parties have the right to seek independent legal advice.
The mediator will act impartially and treat the parties fairly throughout the course of the mediation. The mediator will not propose a solution unless the parties to the dispute request that the mediator does so. The parties are free to accept or reject the suggestion.
The Minister for Justice and Equality will publish a code of practice that will set out the standards for conducting a mediation. It will set out the procedure that the mediator will follow ethical standards, reiterates that this is a confidential process, sets out fees and costs of mediation and anything which is relevant to the mediation.
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