Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is the umbrella term for the many other forms and processes for resolving disputes and managing conflict between people outside of the adversarial court system commonly referred to as “litigation”. The most popular forms of ADR are “Mediation”, “Arbitration” and “Collaborative Law”.
Mediation is an ADR process in which an impartial, neutral third-person (“mediator”) helps two or more parties (“disputants”) to reach their own resolution of their problem. A mediator assists the parties to discuss and resolve their differences when direct negotiation between the parties is not feasible or working. Most mediated cases are settled.
Arbitration is an ADR process in which an impartial, neutral third-person (“arbitrator”) hears both sides and then does make a decision, resolving the disputants’ problem for them. The arbitrator’s decision can be final (“binding”) or not final (“non-binding”), depending on the rules of the arbitration, usually sets in advance by the parties themselves, by the court, or by law or contract. Arbitrators may spell out in writing the reasons for a particular decision (“reasoned decision”), but often an arbitrator gives only the decision (“unreasoned decision”). That decision, if properly filed with the court, can have the same weight and effect as a formal judgment by a court. Arbitration is usually faster, less formal and less expensive than litigation and trial.
Collaborative Law is an ADR process that has two significant aspects… First, the parties’ attorneys sign an agreement (disqualification agreement) that neither can file litigation (the parties can but have to use different attorneys) so their only possible goal is to work towards settlement. Second, other professionals are used to provide independent specialized assistance such as mental health professionals to serve as divorce coach and/or parenting coordinator, and CPAs – particularly those designated as CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst), to assist with determining financial matters including support.