Mediation in Singapore

Last updated on February 2, 2017

Mediation is not a new concept and it is relatively well established as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism. This article serves as a comprehensive guide to mediation in Singapore.

Reasons for Mediation

Any type of civil dispute can be mediated and there is no limit to the type of dispute that can be mediated at the Singapore Mediation Centre. There is also no limit on the amount you may claim in a dispute.

Mediation helps to resolve misunderstandings by providing a neutral and objective platform for parties to work on their issues. In addition, a business that takes into account conflict management, such as mediation, is a business that is in a better position to tackle disputes and has greater control over its management of commercial relationships.

Features of Mediation

In a mediation session, a mediator, who may be a lawyer or a qualified individual, facilitates the mediation process by assisting the parties in: identifying the issues in the dispute, looking at the available options and negotiating a settlement agreement. The terms of the settlement agreement are solely a result of the negotiations between the parties, and the mediator does not impose a decision on either of them. If the parties cannot agree on a settlement even after mediation sessions, they are free to take legal action if they wish to do so.

Advantages of Mediation

1. You save money

The process of mediation will generally be less costly because the parties will save on legal fees, such as for hiring a lawyer, court hearing fees and other costs involved in preparing and going for a trial.

2. You save time

On average, a mediation session can be set up within 2 weeks. Through mediation, dispute are generally settled within one working day or at most, between an estimated duration of 3 – 4 sessions.

In contrast, court proceedings usually take months, especially if the case goes to trial. It should be noted that spending long periods of time in court proceedings will consequently result in higher legal fees. Thus, through mediation, parties will avoid spending a substantial amount of time preparing for court proceedings and instead use the time for other meaningful purposes such as tending to their businesses.

3. Private and confidential

The whole mediation process is confidential and this means that parties are able to safely explore their options without generating any negative publicity about their dispute. In contrast, court proceedings are open to the public and may be reported in the media. This aspect of the mediation process is especially important to any individual or business that wishes to maintain a good image in the public sphere.

Moreover, if the parties are able to reach a settlement, they may also decide to keep the details of their settlement agreement confidential.

4. Flexibility

The mediation process is very flexible and more informal than court proceedings, which provides a great opportunity for interaction between the parties to the mediation and the mediator. The parties are able to arrive at a creative or unorthodox solution without being strictly bound by the law.

In contrast, court proceedings and the ensuing trial are formal. This is because the judge has a duty to ensure that the court procedures and the existing legal principles are followed throughout the process.

5. Preserve business relationships

The ultimate goal of mediation is to allow the parties to the mediation to settle their disputes amicably and ensure that there are no losers in the process. Accordingly, mediation helps to preserve relationships, such as ensuring the continuity of a tenancy pursuant to the lease agreement with little disruption to the business of either party.

6. Ownership over the process and outcome

Throughout the mediation, the mediator’s role is not to make a judgment or a determination as to who is at fault in the dispute. Rather, the mediator’s focus is on facilitating the mediation process so as to be able to help the parties to the mediation find solutions that will address their concerns and needs.

Given the foregoing, the goal of mediation is to help the parties reach a practical solution that is acceptable to everyone involved. This is because the parties to the mediation are the ones who will decide how to settle their dispute, and the details of their settlement agreement. Thus, the outcome of the  dispute is firmly within their control and either party is able to avoid the risk of losing in court should they decide to seek legal recourse through the Singapore Courts.

In contrast, by seeking legal recourse through the Singapore Courts, the parties are giving up a significant amount of control over the dispute to a judge in a trial who will listen to the evidence, which includes the facts and witness testimonies, and make a decision that is binding on all parties to the dispute.

7. Without prejudice

It is important to note that the discussions during a mediation session are ‘without prejudice’. This means that what is said by the either party to the dispute will not be used against them as evidence if the case does proceed to trial.

In contrast, everything and anything that is said in a court hearing is evidence and may be used against either party in future court proceedings.

Disadvantages of Mediation

Despite having a settlement agreement, there may be circumstances where either party to the dispute fails to adhere to the terms of the settlement agreement. This could result in further mediation and unnecessary wastage of time and resources. Moreover, a breach of the terms in the settlement agreement would mean that the innocent party would have to commence separate legal proceedings to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement against the party in breach.

In contrast, seeking legal recourse through the Singapore Courts ensures that the dispute is firmly resolved upon judgment being delivered by the judge. If there is failure to abide by the judgment by the losing party, then the other party can make another application to the Court to ensure that there is adherence to the orders given by the judge. Also, the chances of a party failing to abide by a judgment from the Court are low. The value of deterrence inherent in a judgment given by the Court is often much greater than the value of deterrence that is inherent in a settlement agreement obtained in mediation.

If you are unsure about whether your dispute is best resolved through mediation or by going to court, you should consult a lawyer, especially one that has had experience participating in a mediation process.