Going to court to argue out an issue is an intimidating prospect for most people. Aside from the fear that you may lose your case, the amount of time the proceedings will take, the money it will cost to hire an attorney and the stress of it all makes many people want to avoid court all together. That is why alternative dispute resolutions are available.
Alternative dispute resolutions allow parties to solve their legal issues without litigation. Virtually any subject can be resolved in this way, including divorces, probate, tenant/landlord disputes, business disputes and more. Two of the most common forms of alternative dispute resolution are mediation and arbitration.
Should you and the other party decide to pursue mediation, you will meet informally to negotiate the terms of a settlement. This is a challenge in some situations, divorce for example, when neither party is willing to give ground to the other or may be unable to have a rational discussion with the other.
A mediator will sit in on the meeting as a neutral third party and facilitate fruitful discussion and negotiation. Mediators are not judges; they are typically attorneys with considerable experience in a specific practice area of law. If the two parties reach an agreement, the mediator will draft their resolution into writing and make it legally binding.
Where mediation is designed to facilitate negotiations between parties, arbitration is more akin to a court trial, though it is less formal. Involved parties present their arguments to an arbitrator who considers the evidence and ultimately makes a decision, much like a judge.
Arbitrators are not judges, however. Like mediators, they are usually experienced and specialized attorneys. Once they render their decision, it will be given to a judge to be made legally binding. Arbitration is often complicated: There are several types of arbitration to choose from, the involved parties must agree on an arbitrator and local laws are often factors.
The benefits of this alternative dispute resolution include the fact that even complex matters may be resolved within a few days, it is typically less expensive than going to court and the involved parties have a lot of control regarding how they want their matters handled.
Alternative dispute resolutions are invaluable to individuals who are concerned about the time, money and stress that come with litigation. If you are facing a dispute, it may be in your best interests to speak to a legal professional about your options and how mediation or arbitration can help you.