Alternative dispute resolution provides methods of resolving disputes outside of the traditional courthouse setting. Also known as ADR, alternative approaches to settling legal claims allow the parties to come to a mutually agreeable outcome, while saving everyone time and money. In some cases, like family law disputes, a collaborative approach can allow everyone to come to an agreement without the adversarial conflict of traditional court proceedings. The most commonly used types of ADR include mediation and arbitration.
Mediation is intended to bring the parties together using a neutral third party mediator. The mediator is trained to facilitation communication between the parties to help them come up with their own solution to the problem, rather than impose the mediator's decision on the parties. Mediation focuses on what each party wants to communicate and what they want to get out of the process. The mediator encourages the individuals to come to an outcome they can both accept.
The mediator may have a legal education; however, they generally do not apply the law to the facts in the situation. They do not represent either one of the parties. They do not give legal advice, but instead act as a facilitator to help the parties come to their own agreement.
Arbitration differs from mediation in that the neutral third party decides the case. Rather than helping the two parties come up with their own decision, in arbitration, the arbitrator acts like a judge. The parties may agree to be bound by the arbitration decision, which may be legally binding on the parties.
Arbitration can be beneficial when the parties do not want to make their dispute part of the public record. This method can also be beneficial when the dispute involves specialized knowledge of a specific subject matter. The parties can select a third party arbitrator that they know has the education or training to understand their dispute. Arbitration is also generally faster and cheaper than traditional litigation.
Benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution
By utilizing dispute resolutions methods outside the traditional courtroom setting, parties are able to craft unique solutions to their disputes, safe time and money over traditional litigation, and come away with a solution without the animosity that can ruin professional or familial relationships.
In most civil litigation cases, the remedies available are primarily money damages or a court order to require someone to do something or avoid taking some action. After a case, the judge or jury will generally find for one party and against the other and come up with a determination of money damages. This is generally considered a win-lose outcome, where one party wins at the expense of the other.
However, because there is little the parties can do after a judgment is issued, same cases end in a lose-lose outcome. Neither neither party may be happy with the judge's decision, leaving them with few options outside of continued litigation.
In ADR, the parties are encouraged to come up with their own solutions to the dispute. This could include partial money damages, property exchange, prohibiting certain actions, or in many cases, a simple apology and recognition of one party's frustration may be enough to settle a claim. The parties can come up with innovative and creative outcomes beyond simple money damages, to ensure both parties are content with the outcome, resulting in a win-win situation.
There are thousands of lawsuits filed every day, many of them involving simple contract disputes, claims for damages, or seeking payment. As a result, many civil courts have a long backlog of cases. Even if your civil dispute is relatively minor, it could take months or years before you have a chance to present your case to the court. With extended deadlines and appeals, some lawsuits are drawn out over decades.
Traditional civil litigation can be long and expensive. However, ADR disputes are not at the mercy of the court's calendar. A simple dispute can be settled in a matter of days, without endless status hearings, motion hearings, back and forth filings, and appeals. This allows the parties to get back to normal life without the stress and time demands of dealing with a court case over the course of years. A shorter time frame will also result in lower legal and court fees.
A civil lawsuit can turn former friends, family, or professional associates into enemies. Even minor familial or business disputes can turn ugly with each side accusing the other of deception, blaming the other for the rising costs and time commitment involved in litigation. Dealing with the other party's attorney may also feel very adversarial, causing people who would otherwise be civil to each other to escalate the conflict.
Alternatively, ADR encourages communication, creativity, and problem-solving to come to a mutually acceptable end. Rather than escalate disputes, ADR can have the opposite effect. Communication and participation in the process can help resolve the dispute with minimal impact on the parties' future relationship.
Alternative Dispute Resolution in Family Law Conflicts
Court conflicts in family law can be contentious and divisive. A battle over property, custody, or assets in a divorce can tear a family apart. One of the problems with family disputes is that they go through the adversarial legal process of one side versus the other. However, in recent years, ADR and collaborative dispute resolution is gaining in popularity.
Taking advantage of the benefits of ADR and a cooperative approach, families can resolve disputes in a way that is acceptable to everyone involved. This is beneficial in situations where the family will have to continue contact with each other, such as separated parents sharing custody with their children. It can also be more flexible, allowing individuals to craft their own solutions to their conflict.
Illinois Alternative Dispute Resolution
Disputes can often be solved more quickly and to the mutual satisfaction of everyone involved through alternative dispute resolution. Not all disputes need to go to court. ADR can save everyone involved both time and money. In some cases, such as family disputes or divorce proceedings, ADR can resolve any disputes and maintain family relationships. Our attorneys have successfully represented our clients in Peoria and throughout the State of Illinois. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to resolving disputes for the benefit of our clients and their families.