Alternatives to Court
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Saving on Legal Fees
Some Court alternatives include Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Collaborative Family Law.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
This terms primarily refers to Mediation and/or Arbitration where a neutral third party (usually a senior lawyer or retired judge who is qualified in ADR) is hired by the parties to help resolve some or all issues in their case out of court.
In mediation, the mediator tries to facilitate a settlement, but he/she cannot make decisions for the parties. The parties must still agree on things, and if they do not, they have not settled the issue. The mediator can give his/her opinion on each of the issues and/or the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s position and opine on the costs of litigation, which may be persuasive. The mediation process is informal, though each side usually prepares a Brief for the mediator to review before the mediation regarding the issues and each party’s position.
In arbitration, the process is more formal and similar to a private court hearing where there are opening statements, witnesses, etc. Also, the arbitrator is empowered to make a final decision that is binding on the parties whether they agree or not. A court reporter usually records the proceeding in case the parties agree there is a right to appeal. More preparation is required compared to mediation, and the costs may be higher than mediation, but there will be a resolution reached, and usually faster than if the process went to a court trial.
Collaborative Family Law
In this process, the parties, their lawyers, and other professionals (e.g. an accountant, parenting coordinator, etc.) work together to reach an agreement on all issues, thereby avoiding court. A collaborative agreement is usually signed by the parties outlining their responsibilities and terms of the process. This method is often successful in resolving the parties’ issues, but not always, in which case the parties’ collaborative law family lawyer are precluded from representing the parties in the court process that may ensue.