Three Forms Of Alternative Dispute Resolution

Three Forms Of Alternative Dispute Resolution

If youve never been involved in a legal dispute, and even if you haveyou might find the prospect of going before a court to resolve it intimidating. But most legal disputes these days arent decided by a judge and jury in a courtroom. In fact, most never even make it to trial. Instead, theyre decided outside of court in a process known as alternative dispute resolution. Alternative dispute resolution is a general term that refers to any process for resolving disputes that doesnt involve going to court. The processes used can formal or informal, and the goal is to resolve a dispute without facing the high costs, delays, and uncertainties of going to trial. Ranked from least formal to most formal, here are the three most common methods for alternative dispute resolution.

1. Negotiation

The parties to a dispute can often resolve the dispute on their own, or with the assistance of their own attorneys, without involving a third party. Direct negotiations between the parties will generally be less expensive than the other methods of resolving a dispute, because while it may involve each party hiring a lawyer, they wont incur the additional costs of hiring a mediator or going to arbitration. This process can be as formal or informal as the parties desire.

2. Mediation

Mediation is a more formal version of negotiation, and involves a neutral third party helping the parties to the dispute come to an agreement. Initially, the parties and their attorneys will have to agree on a neutral third party to serve as mediator. If they cant agree on a mediator, they might each pick a third party and let those two third parties choose a neutral third party to be the mediator. However chosen, the mediator will help the parties to the dispute resolve it outside of court. He may do this by separately helping the parties to see the weaknesses in their own cases, or by using one of many other negotiating techniques. However, the mediator cannot force the parties to resolve their case. Because the mediator will have to be paid for his services, mediation is typically more expensive than direct negotiation between the parties.

3. Arbitration

Arbitration is like a private court case. The arbitrator or arbitrators, if there is more than one, will prescribe the method for each party to share the evidence they have with the other, similarly to how discovery works in a court case. They will also admit evidence about the dispute just like a judge would, but their rules for evidence may be different from those used in a court. Once the arbitrators have made a decision in the case, they will issue an award, which is like the judgment of a court. That award might be binding on the parties, and if so, can usually be enforced in court if necessary. Because it is a more formal process for resolving disputes than negotiation or mediation, it also tends to be the most expensive of these three forms of alternative dispute resolution.

While there are other processes of alternative dispute resolution, these three are the most common. Most legal disputes end up being settled outside of court through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration, and understanding these three processes can help you understand your own options if you ever find yourself in a legal dispute.

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