what if the other party doesn't show up?

my first inclination is to preach patience. i have had several mediations where a party has arrived a little bit late. while some consider it rude to be late, there can be factors beyond one's control (such as a tech issue) that create an issue.

if others are participating on the same "side" as the missing party + are in attendance, i encourage them to reach out to the person missing. as the mediator, i try to collect contact information to be able to reach out as well.

once fifteen minutes from the scheduled start time of the mediation passes, if you cannot proceed without the missing party, it may be fair to give up on the mediation taking place.

in such instances, those in attendance often wonder about the consequence for the absent party. at times, this is set out in the law or contract that call for + guide the mediation process. for example, some empower the mediator to award costs if a mediation fails. yet, many mediators are hesitant to do this because it involves making + imposing a decision upon a party - which is not really the mediator's role.

i believe that the missing party should be given a chance to explain what happened. why they did not attend when expected may be important.

many years ago, i was conducting an in-person mediation + one of the parties was absent when we were scheduled to begin. the other waited at my request but was frustrated with the situation unchanged 20 minutes after the scheduled start of the mediation. just as they were about to leave, the other party arrived.

they explained that their senior parent had experienced a medical emergency (heart attack). they were late because they took their parent to the emergency room. while everyone agreed this was reasonable grounds to re-schedule, the late party insisted on proceeding. there was nothing they could do but wait for news on their parent, the parties to the conflict had ongoing relations, the dispute had gone on long enough without being addressed and, in truth, the late party appreciated the distraction.

while proceeding would not be advisable in many similar situations, in that instance it proved helpful. the parties were able to resolve their issues + take positive steps toward repairing their relationship. the unfortunate circumstances seemed to remind the parties that they were human beings, encouraging them to be kind, collaborative + reasonable.

this story is not shared to suggest that there is a good reason on every occasion a party does not show up when expected for a mediation. it is intended to highlight the importance of understanding why before passing judgment. with that said, there are sometimes circumstances where one may, in bad faith, try to manipulate mediation that we should be weary of.

if there are concerns about a mediation participant not showing up for any reason, it can be worthwhile to raise the concern in advance. establishing a consequence that everyone is clear on + agreebale to (including the mediator) can be helpful.

 

 

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