How Long After Mediation Can You Go To Court

How Long After Mediation Can You Go To Court

Understanding the aftermath of the mediation process, mediation results, and how long after mediation you can go to court is a vital step in deciding the ADR route. By now, you have likely encountered the mediation process somehow, either by personal experience or its recent rise in alternative dispute resolution circles. Mediation allows the parties involved to work together with a mediator to find a mediation settlement agreement that they can use to resolve the dispute. We discuss the mediation process and how to approach it here.

Still, we have spent little time on the questions many people have after mediation ends and the settlement negotiations are completed. This article will look at the aftermath of mediation and what happens after mediation.

The Mediation Process

The mediation process is a dispute resolution process where the parties meet with a neutral third party known as the mediator and participate in a guided negotiation of sorts. The parties have control over the outcome of the dispute instead of leaving it up to a trier of fact. The exact process of mediation depends on the needs of the parties involved and the style of the mediator, but most will follow a similar pattern. The first step of which is choosing the mediator.

The Mediator: The Neutral Third Party

The mediator will be chosen either by the parties specifically or by the organization that the parties have chosen. The will be a neutral third party, meaning that they have no undisclosed ties to either party involved, nor do they have an interest in the outcome of the dispute. They function as a guide for the parties and their attorneys to work through possible solutions.

The Mediation Session Itself

Once a mediator is chosen or appointed, the parties will begin the mediation itself. The mediator and each party will be given opening statements outlining the mediator’s rules and guidelines and the parties’ positions. The parties may then discuss the settlement terms, which will happen either in a joint session or in caucuses, where the mediator moves from one party to the other party. They will work to reach an agreement that meets the best interests of everyone involved.

The Timing of Mediation

Mediation can be a quick process within a few hours, or it may take multiple sessions over several days to settle the case. The length of time it takes to reach a settlement agreement can vary and depends on factors both within and outside the parties’ control.

The complexity of the case is often the most determinative factor because it can take a long time for everyone to understand all the moving parts. Complex cases may require mediators and attorneys with special knowledge, such as personal injury lawyers or scientific experts.

The length of time can also depend on the parties’ willingness to negotiate and attempt to reach a mediation agreement. If the parties involved are committed to mediation, they may find a way to resolve the case quickly.

The Results of Mediation

At the end of the mediation, there are four options that the parties may choose.

Fully Mediated Agreement

The first result is that the parties sign a settlement agreement that fully resolves the issue. This agreement is legally binding and can be enforced. The mediator will often have a form to complete and sign this agreement.

Partially Mediated Agreement

Another option the parties may choose is a mediation settlement agreement that only resolves part of the dispute, leaving the rest to be resolved later or through the legal process.

Continued Negotiations

The parties may decide that they are not able to reach a deal or compromise during the session, but they may be close. In this case, the parties may continue to work on reaching a settlement agreement.

Mediation Fails

Finally, another common result of mediation is that it fails, meaning that the parties are unable to reach an agreement and will need to continue with litigation. At this point, the legal team will hand the case back to the courts. The parties can continue to negotiate, and the court may accept an agreement whether it happens several days or several hours before the trial.

In cases with a lot of complexity, particularly personal injury cases, it can be challenging to handle a trial on your own, so it is important to contact local personal injury lawyers to help you prepare at this step if you do not yet have an attorney.

Whatever the result, there are often lingering questions that will need to be answered, particularly if one party wishes to go to court with the other party.

How Long After Mediation Can You Go to Court?

How long and whether you can go to court after mediation depends on the outcome of the mediation and the stage of the lawsuit within the court system.

Court After Mediation Fails

If mediation fails and you disagree, you must likely go to court to resolve the case. You may be able to resolve the issue through arbitration or other dispute resolution mechanisms, but the complexity of a case may mean that you need to return to court.

If litigation is the next step for a case, it will either need to be filed if it is not already, or it will need to set a trial date. If you need a trial date scheduled, your attorney will contact the judge or court to discuss the best times to do that. If the lawsuit has not been filed in court, scheduling a case may take additional time.

Depending on the court calendar and the time needed to hold the trial, this can happen quickly; however, in most cases, it will not happen for quite some time. For this reason, a judge may recommend the parties continue to negotiate or mediate to reach an agreement, settle the case, and save time.

Court After a Settlement Agreement

In most cases, it is incredibly difficult to go to court after you have a mediation settlement because this is a legally binding contract between the parties. A judge may find that the agreement is improper in very limited circumstances. For example, a conflict of interest may require a different mediator, a new attorney, or attorneys not working in their client’s best interests. However, this is often a long shot. Because of this, it is best not to sign an agreement to resolve a lawsuit unless you are certain it is the best option.

Breaching the Mediation Agreement

If you went to mediation and secured a mediation settlement agreement, it is a contract that either party cannot breach without consequences. For example, if there is an agreement to pay money or exchange goods within a set amount of time, and that money is not paid or exchanged, a party has breached the contract. This does not always excuse the other party from performing under the contract.

If you have a mediation settlement and the other party threatens not to abide by the contract or compromise, it may be best to contact an attorney if you do not already have one. If the breach is serious, you may be asked to participate in negotiation or attempt to reach a new resolution. If not, you may need to go to trial on the new claim for breaching the contract.


Mediation is a great way to find a compromise and resolution that works for the parties, but any agreement needs to be carefully considered. While litigation is possible after mediation in some instances, it is not in all cases and should be considered only if necessary.

Contact ADR Times to learn more about mediation, the mediation process, and how long after mediation you can go to court!

Emily Holland
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