Finally, after a long parliamentary struggle, the German Mediation Act (Gesetz zur Förderung der Mediation und anderer Verfahren der außergerichtlichen Konfliktbeilegung) was signed into law by the President of the Federal Republic (Bundespräsident) on July 21, 2012. Four days later it was published in the Federal Gazette (Bundesgesetzblatt) BGBl. I, 2012, S. 1577, and came into force on July 26, 2012.
When I reported in early January that the law was passed in Bundestag, it might have appeared that just a couple of weeks are needed to finalize the legislative process. However it soon turned out that the Mediation Act required the Mediation Committee (Vermittlungsausschuss) of the upper and the lower chambers (Bundesrat and Bundestag) to find an amicable solution within the German parliament.
The model of court-integrated mediation with judges acting as mediators (strongly supported by some federal states), and the concept of a conciliation judge (Güterichter) introduced by Bundestag, were seen as the main bone of contention. Finally, both were integrated into the Act.
Other regulations in the Mediation Act include for example:
– Financial incentives to encourage mediation (for the first time in German law). Such incentives may be created by individual Landes (thus they will potentially differ from state to state). The states can reduce or even waive court fees, if matters are settled through mediation or other means of ADR. It remains to be seen how generous the individual states are in creating these incentives, while they come of their budgets;
– Introduction of the title of a “certified mediator”, who has to pass at least 120 hours of intensive training. Prior to the Mediation Act, German mediators did not have to meet any specific educational standards required by law;
– Suspension of the statutes of limitation during mediation proceedings;
– Enforceability of settlement agreements reached though mediation.
It will be interesting to hear how the new law is welcomed by the German mediation community.