Here at Gunstons, we believe in the importance of mediation as a legitimate tool for dispute resolution. It (compared to litigation) allows for speedier, more robust and cost effective solutions. Members of the South African legal fraternity who have been campaigning for mediation to be taken more seriously in the settlement of disputes, ourselves included, have thus been greatly encouraged by a recent judgement of the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, which has endorsed mediation and its benefits from the highest level.
A case affirming mediation and its benefits
In the case, State vs. Mr and Mrs J, which involved a dispute about the residence of a child, the judge noted the high cost of protracted litigation both in financial and in emotional terms.
The judge endorsed the views expressed by Brassey AJ in the earlier judgement of B vs. B that mediation in family matters is a useful way of avoiding protracted and expensive legal battles, and that litigation should not necessarily be a first resort. And he specifically ordered that in the event that the parties experience difficulty in arranging contact they must first attempt to resolve this through a mediator rather than through court proceedings. In the B vs. B judgment, Brassey AJ had made an adverse costs order against both the parties and the attorneys because mediation was not seriously attempted.
This case adds further momentum to what is a rising tide on the merits of mediation, and strengthens the need for attorneys to consider and advise their clients on all available dispute resolution options. Mediation is not always the best option, but it should be considered, given the advantages it offers in terms of creative solutions, speedy resolution and cost savings.
If you find yourself in a legal dispute involving family (or other) matters and are struggling to resolve things, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]. If mediation is an option in your circumstances, pursuing it as a tool for dispute resolution could be highly beneficial to you.
Images courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.