Image of an incomplete arbitration agreement on a wooden desk with lawyerly things, a pen, a stamp, reading glasses, a law book and a gavel.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

It is becoming very common for our clients to ask about alternative dispute resolution (ADR). In fact, in many judicial districts in North Carolina, the district court has adopted rules for mandated ADR in family law cases. The goal of the Administrative Office of the Courts is to have statewide mandatory custody mediation and mandatory ADR for the resolution of financial issues related to separation and divorce. Even after you file a lawsuit, statistics show that 80 to 90 percent of court cases settle before trial. Unfortunately, many of these settlements occur only after the parties have expended significant amounts of money and time in the process. Many of these risks of losing time and money can be avoided if you are able to negotiate a solution directly, and retain control over the outcome.

There are several forms of ADR which may facilitate the resolution of your case before or after a lawsuit has been filed. Depending on what sorts of relief you are seeking, they may include mediation, reference, binding arbitration, judicial settlement conference and early neutral evaluation. A new approach to out of court resolution of family law cases is “collaborative law,” which is a process designed to completely avoid the litigation process. With the exception of collaborative law, in each of these methods, the opposing parties seek assistance from a neutral third party to resolve their disputes. In collaborative law, the parties work with their respective lawyers together to cooperatively reach a mutually satisfactory resolution of all marital issues. There is a general agreement about how each method of ADR works. But, there are several different approaches to consider. ADR can provide you with a less costly and more expeditious resolution of your disputed issues.

The basis for all dispute resolution is open and complete disclosure, financial and otherwise. Formal discovery, the process of obtaining information incident to litigation, takes a lot of time and can be quite costly. For the purposes of ADR you will each be required to disclose anything that would have a bearing on the issues. Typically, assets of significant value are appraised and information is gathered, analyzed, and discussed until both of you have a clear understanding of all options, and can make informed decisions on each issue.

This article is for information purposes only and is not to be considered or substituted as legal advice. The information in this article is based on North Carolina state laws in effect at the time of posting.

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