ADR Options

Legal Matters

QUESTION:

Are there alternatives to the court process to resolve the issues from the breakdown of a marriage?

ANSWER:

The court process is just one method to determine issues arising from the breakdown of a marriage. There are several alternate methods which can effectively resolve family law disputes.

One option is mediation, which involves a neutral, third party (a mediator) who is trained to isolate and narrow the issues between the separated couple to help them reach an agreement.  Depending on the complexity of the issues involved, the parties may attend the mediation on their own or with their counsel by their side.

Where mediation fails, parties may consider engaging in arbitration, which again involves a neutral third party (an arbitrator) who is hired by the spouses to hear each person’s case, like a judge would in court.  In this case, the spouses agree that the arbitrator will make a final, binding decision after hearing the case. This can be more efficient than the court process, as there is greater flexibility in scheduling matters.

A third option is engaging in the collaborative law process.  This is a voluntary process in which the parties agree at the outset that they will not engage in the court process, binding each other to the process and disqualifying their lawyers’ rights to represent their client in any future family related litigation.  The lawyers and other trained professionals provide the parties with support and guidance as the parties work together to arrive at a livable solution.

Finally, there is negotiation, which is the process of discussing, with or without counsel, what compromises might be reached between the spouses. This can be very effective and is often used in conjunction with the above methods.