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What is ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)?

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.

Some of the more common forms of ADR are:

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.  This is a confidential process, and except under extremely limited circumstances, the mediator cannot be called to testify regarding the proceedings.

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.

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 certain decisions regarding parenting disputes.  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. A Parenting Coordinator is generally allowed to testify in court if one or both of the parents fail to abide by the agreed Parenting Plan.