Alternative  Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to a variety of processes that help parties resolve  disputes without a trial. Typical ADR processes include mediation, arbitration, neutral evaluation, and collaborative law.  These processes are  generally confidential, less formal, and less stressful than traditional court  proceedings.

ADR often saves money and speeds settlement.  In ADR processes such as mediation, parties  play an important role in resolving their own disputes.  This often results in creative solutions, longer-lasting  outcomes, greater satisfaction, and improved relationships.

– Definitions of ADR –

Arbitration: a neutral person called an  “arbitrator” hears arguments and evidence from each side and then decides the  outcome.  Arbitration is less formal than  a trial and the rules of evidence are often relaxed.  In binding  arbitration, parties agree to accept the arbitrator’s decision as final,  and there is generally no right to appeal.   In nonbinding arbitration, the  parties may request a trial if they do not accept the arbitrator’s decision.

Case Conferencing: in case conferencing, a judge or the judge’s representative  meets with the parties and their attorneys to try to settle some or all of the  issues in dispute before going to trial. Parties’ participation is limited, and  the focus is on narrowing the issues in dispute.

Collaborative Family  Law: Collaborative Family Law gives divorcing couples a way to end their marriage respectfully, without going to court, while offering them the support, guidance and protection of their own, specially-trained lawyers.  If either spouse decides to go to court, both spouses must hire new lawyers.  This motivates everyone involved to continue working toward a mutually agreeable resolution.  Collaborative Family Law may also involve other professionals.  Collaborative Family Law may not be appropriate for couples with a history or fear of domestic violence, or where one spouse cannot locate the other.

Mediation: a neutral person called a  “mediator” helps the parties try to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of the dispute.  The mediator does not decide the case, but  helps the parties communicate so they can try to settle the dispute  themselves.  Mediation may be  particularly useful when family members, neighbors, or business partners have a  dispute.  Mediation may be inappropriate  if a party has a significant advantage in power or control over the other.

Neutral Evaluation: a neutral person with subject-matter  expertise hears abbreviated arguments, reviews the strengths and weaknesses of  each side’s case, and offers an evaluation of likely court outcomes in an  effort to promote settlement.  The  neutral evaluator may also provide case planning guidance and settlement  assistance with the parties’ consent.

Parenting Coordination (PC): a child-focused process in which a trained  and experienced mental health or legal professional called a “parenting coordinator”  assists high-conflict parents to carry out their parenting plan. With prior  approval of the parties and the court, the parenting coordinator may make  decisions within the scope of the court order or appointment contract.  The purpose of Parent Coordination is to help  parents resolve conflicts regarding their children in a timely manner and try  to promote safe, healthy, and meaningful parent-child relationships.

Summary Jury Trials (SJT):  In this adversarial dispute resolution  process, each side presents its case in a shortened form to a jury.  The jury then makes a decision, which is  advisory only, unless parties request that it be a binding decision. A summary  jury trial gives parties a preview of a potential verdict should the case go to  trial.  SJTs are available in limited  jurisdictions.