More and more there is a trend in Family law toward Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”). ADR is a way of resolving disputes in ways other than difficult and expensive litigation. Whether the issue is divorce, custody, parenting time, alimony, child support or equitable distribution, more people are settling their cases through ADR. And it comes in various forms.
Perhaps the most common type is ADR is mediation. Mediation involves two parties agreeing to talk about their contested issues with a third party, typically an experienced Family law attorney, who helps the parties resolve their problems by way of a settlement which may memorialized into a binding written agreement. Mediation works best when both parties are willing to compromise and are focused on working toward a solution rather than just wanting to fight.
Mediation can be public or private. Typically, even if someone files a Complaint in court he or she will be obligated to participate in mediation. In cases of divorce, most counties have an Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel (“MESP”) program. This involves the parties, with or without lawyers, presenting their issues to one or two experienced Family law attorneys who make recommendations for resolution and work with the parties to resolve their differences without the need for further court intervention. In most instances, if the MESP program does not work, further mediation is ordered, so-called post-MESP Economic mediation.
When the issues involved children, the Court sometimes mandate parent education courses and require the parties to try to mediate their differences prior to the court making any decisions in the case. This occurs not only in cases of divorce, but also in cases where the parties were never married as with economic mediation, the goal is to reach an amicable resolution without resort to contentious litigation.
When mediation is conducted through the offices of the court system, it is public mediation. Private mediation occurs when the parties choose to mediate outside of the court system. There are many attorneys (and oftentimes mental health professionals) who specialize in private mediation.
There are other types of ADR as well. For instance, Collaborative law is a process whereby parties work out their issues incident to divorce by agreeing to conduct a series of meetings to talk about and agree upon all of the various economic and child-related matters. Only once all matters are agreed upon do the parties actually go to Court.
Another way to avoid going to Court is through arbitration. In arbitration the parties present their issues to a third-party professional, again typically a Family law attorney, in a somewhat less formalized setting and that third-party makes binding decisions. Arbitration is beneficial because it is private, meaning that the Court is not involved. This allows the process to proceed without the delay and inconvenience commonly associated with litigation.
Whether it be mediation, Collaborative law arbitration or some other process, ADR is an excellent way to resolve Family law disputes in a way that is less expensive, less contentious, and less difficult and time-consuming than is litigation.
Know your options. Speak to Family law attorney about Alternative Dispute Resolution.