Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is just what the name suggests. The “dispute resolution” means the parties coming to an agreed settlement to a problem. The “alternative” is solving disputes through discussion rather than going in front of a judge in court to decide the contested issue through litigation.
There are four principal forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution: mediation, neutral evaluation, arbitration, and negotiated settlement. Each is different, and offers different but not exclusive opportunities to resolve a disagreement.
“Mediation” has the parties come together with a neutral third party — the mediator — and describe their primary objectives in the discussion. The mediator assures that both sides get to express themselves and that their concerns are addressed in the discussion without any disrespect or dismissal from the other side. Mediators generally do not offer their own opinions on the merits of the contested points raised by the parties.
“Neutral evaluation” resembles mediation in that a neutral third person facilitates discussion. Unlike a mediator, however, the neutral evaluator calls upon his or her own knowledge and skills to offer the parties his or her view of how the issue under discussion might likely be resolved in court if the issue were to be presented there. The neutral evaluator’s opinion is not binding on the parties, but is offered to suggest where one party’s insistence on a particular result is out of line with the legal realities of the debate as to be creating an impass. Neutral evaluations are best done with the attorneys for the parties present if the party is represented.
“Arbitration” can resemble mediation or neutral evaluation in that discussion and presentations from both parties or their lawyers can be offered. The arbitrator may explore possible settlements and recommend a settlement to the parties in a “non-binding arbitration,” or if the parties have agreed in advance can offer a compulsory settlement in a “binding arbitration.” Arbitration typically resembles an informal court process in that evidence and testimony may be taken, but is all done in privacy and not in a courtroom. Discussions and questioning is more relaxed than in a courtroom, and rules of evidence and court procedure do not necessarily apply.
“Alternative Dispute Resolution offers quicker, less costly ways to reach agreement than court.”
A “negotiated settlement” brings parties and their own attorneys to a settlement meeting to discuss options and proposals around the room, with parties consulting privately with their own attorney for guidance, or between the attorneys to see where the other side might move to bring recommendations back to the parties on possible resolutions.
Whatever settement process is used, the discussions are confidential. What is said in the sessions cannot be used in court as evidence later, though the underlying facts discussed can. The mediator, neutral evaluator, arbitrator, and the lawyers cannot be called upon to testify in court as to what was said or what was proposed in the discussion.
Contact us to discuss whether any of these forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution might help to resolve your case. You may want to contact us if you are already involved in a family law case and want to discuss whether we could serve as the mediator, neutral evaluator, or arbitrator for your controversy. Learn more about ADR from the court’s own website information on ADR. If you are already a client at Braiterman Law Offices, you can be sure that we will be exploring with you whether any of the above described processes might help you to reach a suitable resolution in less time and with less money than courtroom litigation. We will use our knowledge of each settlement process and the individuals who offer such services in the community to guide you where the best chances of agreement can be reached.