Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) encompasses a few different methods for resolving family disputes without resorting to litigation in court. ADR includes mediation and Collaborative Law, and on rare occasions binding arbitration. When arbitration is used, the arbitrator will hear evidence presented from both sides, on a less formal basis than would be required in court, but the arbitrator makes the final decision and the finding of the arbitrator is binding on the parties. The other two methods, mediation and Collaborative Law, are similar but they differ in a few significant ways. (See section on Collaborative Divorce for more detailed information regarding this process.) Mediation involves the assistance of an unbiased professional to assist the parties in reaching a settlement. Sometimes this is on all issues, and sometimes only those that the parties could not work out on their own. While the mediator may be a licensed attorney, that attorney serving as the mediator is prohibited from providing any legal advice to the parties. Unlike the collaborative process, mediation does not require each party to have the assistance of legal counsel. However, most mediators will strongly encourage both parties to consult with their own counsel before signing off on a final agreement. In addition, mediation usually does not involve the assistance of mental health and financial professionals, although they are sometimes used to assist the parties in reaching an agreement, whether it be by bringing them in to participate in the mediation process or the parties meeting with these professionals outside the mediation process.
ADR is increasingly more popular with families who wish to reach a settlement outside of court. Family Law Associates of Richmond attorneys are available to assist you in selecting the alternative that fits the needs of your family and in representing you during that process.