Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a term used to describe methods of settling disputes without the formality of a formal court hearing, such as a trial or Motion for Temporary Orders. Throughout the course of any case, we always employ the most common method of dispute resolution: the art of informal negotiation. The alternative dispute resolution options described below include only those methods which employ a neutral third party. As with any dispute resolution, it is important to be flexible and be open to compromise with an eye towards reducing overall litigation expenses.

Mediation: Mediation is a process by which a professionally trained and experienced third party aids disputing parties find a satisfactory resolution to their conflict. The mediator does not make any decision for the parties, but rather organizes the discussion, provides general information and guides the process so that the parties have an opportunity to arrive at the best solution possible under often difficult circumstances. Parties entering mediation may or may not be accompanied by attorneys or friends, depending on their wishes. This method is very effective in resolving the majority of Parenting Plan and other family law related disputes.

Mediation-Arbitration: Mediation-Arbitration is a combination of the process of mediation and arbitration. The parties agree to mediate a dispute, and if mediation is unsuccessful, they then have the option of requesting that the mediator-arbitrator fully and finally decide their disputed issues.

Arbitration: Arbitrations are often held to avoid a contested court appearance, such as a Motion for Temporary Orders or trial. An arbitrator is usually paid by both parties to serve in a similar role to that of a Judge or Family Law Commissioner. The parties agree that the arbitrator will have the power to fully and fairly decide their dispute. Arbitrations are usually less formal than a court proceeding. Arbitrations typically occur in an attorney’s office. Testimony is taken and evidence elicited in a more relaxed manner than what occurs in court. It is generally the rule that arbitrations are less expensive and stressful than a litigation alternative.

Settlement Conference: A Settlement Conference is very similar to mediation and arbitration, except the third party will give his or her educated opinion as to how the dispute would most likely be resolved by a judge at trial or hearing. The parties are free to accept or reject this opinion and with the help of the third party, may resolve the dispute based on the opinion or some variation of it. No decision can be imposed on the parties without mutual consent.