Is mediation compulsory? Do you have to take part it if the other side offer it? At the time of writing (Summer 2023) mediation is not compulsory in most legal disputes including those about inheritance disputes. There may be costs penalties if one side unreasonably refuses to mediate so that can be risky not accept the other side’s invitation to mediate.

However this may all change in December when the Court of Appeal is due to hear the case of Churchill v Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council. It doesn’t particularly matter what the case is about (Japanese Knotweed actually – but you knew that from the picture right?)  – the important procedural point the court is being asked to consider is can the court order proceedings be put on hold if one side refuses a request to mediate?

Permission has been granted for organisations such as the Civil Mediation Council to intervene in the case and they have published their draft skeleton argument for the case.

The decision will have obvious significance for people who want to try and resolve their disputes without the stress, delay, costs and uncertainty of going to court. If your opponent is refusing your offer to mediate it is important to try and find out what their objections and work on overcoming them. Ask them to speak to a mediator if they have doubts about the process or don’t know how it works. My short video may help.

Can Compulsory Mediation work?

In inheritance disputes you can see as an impartial observer that if the parties continue with their litigation a very large part of the estate is going to be spent on legal fees. Often the parties understand that but may say things like “I’d rather the lawyers got it than the other side”. Mediators frequently help parties overcome this initial position which is a common reaction to being in conflict. Mediation can and often does work in the face of scepticism by one if not both of the parties taking part.

I will of course update this post once the decision is available.