Caldwell & Kearns, P.C.
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Looking at the enforceability of mediation agreements

Regardless of the nature of the dispute that is brought to mediation, the aim of the process is to help parties to open up to each other’s perspectives and work toward a mutually acceptable resolution. Coming up with an agreement that both parties can commit to is not always an easy task, particularly if the dispute involves issues that are highly emotional or which involve changing circumstances.

Any agreement parties come up with in mediation must not only be acceptable at the time mediation is concluded, but also must be able to call forth follow-through from both parties after the fact. This is not to say that the terms of an agreement cannot be altered later on if circumstances change, but only that mediation agreements are enforceable and parties can be held accountable for complying with the terms of these agreements. 

The law concerning the enforceability of mediation agreements is not uniform in every state and federal jurisdiction, and it is important for those partaking in the mediation process to work with a mediator who understands the local rules and law and who follows procedures to ensure any settlement reached by the parties will be enforceable in the event that one or both parties fail to abide by their obligations after the fact.  

In general, courts apply the principles of contract law when it comes to enforcing mediation agreements.  Some of the more common grounds on which mediation agreements are challenged are duress, coercion, lack of agreement, fraud, misrepresentation, and mistake. Again, an effective mediator will have an understanding of these issues and will make sure to direct and conclude the mediation in such a way that enforceability issues are less likely to arise down the road. In our next post, we’ll take a look at some specific suggestions. 

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