Many people have heard the term Alternative Dispute Resolution but very few, out side of those who practice within the legal system, know what it means.
Very simply put, Alternative Dispute Resolution is using other means of finding a solution to a problem besides suing someone and going to court. The two most common methods of doing this are arbitration and mediation.
- Arbitration is sometimes used resolve family law issues. The two parties appoint and agree to a neutral “arbitrator” to hear their stories and make a decision. The arbitrator can resolve both custody and financial issues. The advantage of arbitration over litigation is that the process and awards are confidential, however similar to a court, the decision is binding. While there is some leeway when it comes to review of child-related issues, few cases that have been arbitrated can be appealed to a court.
- Mediation is perhaps more commonly used in family law. The beauty of mediation is that both parties feel they are empowered and are usually motivated to finding mutually agreed upon solutions. Mediation is mandatory in some counties in Colorado before any contested court hearing. It is confidential and usually much more cost effective than litigation.
Most people find that agreeing and participating in mediating early is beneficial. The reason is that when you open up the conversation at the beginning of the process generally the process moves along and there is a spirit of working together to get results. This is different than litigation where the process can stagnate or become a contentious environment where both sides dig in their heels. Mediation can be binding or non-binding but is more commonly employed as a non-binding process in the scope of family law.
Not sure which method is best for your situation? Interested in hearing more about collaborative processes? Then speak with an experienced family law professional about your options.