Taking disputes to court is a costly affair and not for the faint-hearted. Financial costs are the most obvious of these, with legal costs sometimes running into millions. But what many people do not appreciate, until they find themselves locked into a court “battle”, is the toll that litigation takes on all other areas of their lives, including the emotional and psychological trauma, regardless of the type of dispute they find themselves in.


Another factor often overlooked is the time it takes to reach finality through the courts. Our courts are understaffed and back-logged resulting in matters often taking years to finally get to trial. It is also common practice for litigants or their legal representatives to delay proceedings by abusing the court processes deliberately. These delays are financially and emotionally draining, with many litigants seeking justice eventually “giving up” due to running out of funds or the emotional strength to continue.


Whilst many litigants, and too often their legal representatives, take on a “winner-takes-all” approach to disputes, the sad truth is that justice is seldom achieved to the extent expected, if at all, when the decision-making is left in the hands of a third party.


Mediation offers an alternate dispute resolution mechanism that has many advantages. The most important of these is that the decision-making remains in the hands of the parties to the dispute. The mediator is impartial and has no decision-making powers. The mediator is there to manage the process and enable the parties to negotiate their own agreement. The process reduces conflict by helping parties consider the issues that need to be settled and the various options for settlement that may be available to them.


Another advantage is that mediation is far quicker than litigation. With an experienced mediator, if the parties are genuinely committed to resolving their dispute and depending on the complexity thereof, agreement can be reached in a matter of hours. Furthermore, the financial costs of mediation versus litigation are minuscule in comparison.


Mediation is also adaptable to different cultural systems and/or religious beliefs and can accordingly afford people from all cultural backgrounds, including children, the opportunity of playing a meaningful role in the process. Mediation assists both parties in working out arrangements for themselves and, in family-related disputes, their children, instead of handing over control of their affairs to a court.