The Community Dispute Resolution Program utilizes trained volunteers from your locality to help resolve disputes. Mediation is often the preferred option for disputes that involve people in ongoing relationships such as neighbors, friends, relatives, and co-workers. Mediation is available to everyone who lives or works in Union County.
WHY SHOULD I TRY MEDIATION?
Mediation is a structured and confidential form of negotiation that provides you with a convenient, fair, and effective way to resolve disputes. If your case is heard in court before a judge, there is usually a least one loser. You do not negotiate, and you do not decide what happens to your case. The judge must make a decision in accordance with the law.
In mediation, by contrast, you have significant control over the process. A court-appointed, trained mediator assists you and the person(s) with whom you are in conflict in negotiating a solution to your problem. It is a solution that both sides consider fair and reasonable. Mediation often results in a win-win outcome. Moreover, no one ever gets a police record.
WHAT ARE THE COSTS?
Mediation is free. There are no court costs, and there is no payment to the mediators.
WHO ARE THE MEDIATORS?
Mediators are concerned members of the community who have volunteered their time and talents to provide a free, effective, and timely method for settling disputes. They are required to complete an intensive training course and to participate in ongoing educational activities. All mediators must be approved by the N.J. Superior Court.
WHAT KINDS OF MATTERS ARE APPROPRIATE FOR MEDIATION?
Mediation can be used for the less serious kinds of disputes that you may consider taking to court. These matters include conflicts between neighbors, landlord-tenant disputes, disagreements between customers and merchants, and a wide assortment of interpersonal problems such as noise complaints and conflicts involving pet owners.
HOW DOES MEDIATION WORK?
In order to maximize the likelihood of success, it is important that both parties cooperate with the mediator and understand some basic ground rules. Specifically, the following points are important:
- Mediators do not decide who is right or wrong. They facilitate a discussion between the parties.
- The parties are expected to negotiate in GOOD FAITH. Both sides will be committed to reaching a mutually acceptable agreement.
- Each side will be given an equal chance to talk, but only one person may speak at a time.
- Name calling, foul language, rowdy behavior, and threats will not be tolerated.
- Only individuals directly involved in the dispute are allowed to be present at mediation sessions.
- Mediators are prohibited from discussing the dispute with anyone not directly involved.
- Although not required for the purposes of mediation, evidence (e.g., receipts or photographs) may be submitted; and witnesses may appear so long as they contribute relevant information. It is the disputants' responsibility to arrange for the appearance of any witnesses.
- Attorneys may attend mediation sessions in an advisory capacity, but they are not allowed to actively participate.
- Mediation sessions are confidential. Disclosures and proposals made in an effort to resolve disputes cannot be used in any subsequent court proceeding concerning the matter.
If an agreement is reached, the mediator will put it in writing. Each party will sign the agreement and receive a copy. If no agreement is reached or if an agreement is subsequently broken, the complaining party may wish to pursue a formal action in Municipal Court.
TYPES OF CASES TO BE REFERRED
A. Among the types of cases that may be referred to mediation are matters normally heard by a Municipal Court, including the following:
- Criminal mischief
- Obstruct or harass
- Creating disturbance
- Noise complaints
- Animal complaints
- Defacement of property
- Annoying phone calls
- Neighborhood disputes
- Merchant/customer disputes
- Landlord/tenant disputes
- Property disputes
- Theft (first offense)*
- Shoplifting (first offense)*
- Larceny (first offense, under $200)*
- Bad checks (first offense, under $200)*
- Simple assaults (non-injury), except those that can be classified as domestic violence
- Family disputes, except those that can be classified as domestic violence
*MEDIATION OF THESE OFFENSES MUST BE APPROVED BY THE JUDGE
B. Mediation cannot be used in complaints against juveniles, but juveniles may bring complaints against adults. Problems involving allegations of child abuse cannot be mediated. Moreover, a case cannot be referred to mediation when the police have already made an arrest. Traffic tickets and indictable offenses cannot be mediated.