There is a better way.
Mediation: Private and Out-of-Court
Binding - signed agreements are binding and can be taken to court if not followed
Confidential - no public record
Everything's Negotiable - fees, settlement amount, payment terms
Lawyers Optional - formal legal advice is recommended but not mandatory
Private - office setting, no court room waiting, gossip or drama
Self-Determined Result - parties control the outcome
Voluntary - parties agree to participate and can end mediation at any time
Benefits of Mediation
Saves Time & $$$
The wait to get a court date for small claims in MA ranges from about 2 to about 5 months if there are no extensions. When the day arrives, you can anticipate spending an entire morning or afternoon waiting for your case to be called.
If a judgment is issued in your favor, you may think you won but collecting is another hassle. There is usually at least a 30 day wait before follow up steps for non-payment can be implemented through the courts. You may have to follow up 2 or 3 times before reaching a point where an arrest warrant can be issued. Then, you are faced with the ethical and moral dilemma of having someone arrested for a small claim or money dispute.
Mediation is available weekdays, evenings and weekends. No long wait.
No $$$ Limit
The limit on court processed Small Claims in Massachusetts is $7,000. Business owners and individuals often reduce their claims to meet the 7k limit prematurely compromising their ability to fully recover damages.
Mediation has no restrictions on dollar amounts. You can negotiate payment plans, who pays mediation fees, and all details related to settling the dispute including relationship and communication concerns. Mediation fees are paid upfront and can be negotiated as part of your final settlement.
Retaining Control & Reduced stress
No-one can know with certainty how a case will work out in court. Someone else is in control and someone else is going to determine the resolution. Payment terms are possible, but not usually flexible beyond 30-60 days. Emotions tend to run high. Parties are conditioned to prepare for a fight in a public forum, not to work out a self-determined, negotiated resolution. Uncertainty and stress dominate the court room.
Participants in mediation negotiate their own resolution including payment and other terms that work for them. Relationships are often repaired. After all, most folks continue to live and work in the same community. Civility and respect dominate in mediation.
Privacy: no credit rating 'ding' or public record
Defendants don't usually know that - if they lose in court - there may be a mark on their credit report for about 7 years. It won't go away. The Judicial system has no obligation to help remove the credit ding. Your in-court cases are public record for all to see including prospective employers, landlords and lenders.
Mediation is confidential, and voluntary. There will never be a credit rating impact resulting from a private mediation. You negotiate in a private office setting, not a crowded public court room. No records are kept by the mediator other than an agreement to mediate, fee processing information and the final agreement.