Alternative Dispute Resolution

Josef Rappaport
October 17, 2022

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), backed by the United States ADR Act of 1998, is a remedial way of settling disputes among individuals and communities without approaching a court. ADR has grown over the years primarily as an alternative to the court system.

ADR was instituted in the United States to help aggrieved parties reach an amicable settlement without needing a formal court proceeding. 

Alternative Dispute Resolution has also been adopted as a peer mediation mechanism by US schools primarily for children to resolve conflicts that ensue amongst their peers. ADR is also used in a divorce process called “divorce mediation.” This option is adopted when couples want to end their marriage on a friendly note.

Other areas of ADR application are formal and informal organizations like local communities and trade associations. Stakeholders are pulled together representing different interest groups within a larger organization to proffer solutions to resolving disputes between disagreeing parties.

Key Takeaways

  • Alternative dispute resolution provides a platform for resolving conflicts amongst aggrieved parties without necessarily approaching a court.
  • Arbitration, mediation, and neutral evaluation are major procedures deployed in ADR to resolve conflicts.
  • Issues usually addressed through the ADR are family disputes, the divorce process, landlord and tenant disagreements, and industrial and commercial disputes. Reconciliatory methods amongst aggrieved parties depend on the willingness of both parties to use ADR.
  • Opting for ADR against a court process is sometimes cheaper and faster. Still, its success largely depends on the cooperation of all parties involved in the dispute.

Types of alternative dispute resolution procedures

Mediation: Mediation is when a neutral person called a "mediator" helps the parties reach a resolution acceptable to both. It's primarily applicable where both parties are willing to cooperate to preserve their relationship.

Arbitration: In arbitration, a third party, neutrally known as the "arbitrator", examines arguments and evidence from both sides before deciding regarding the resolution of the conflict. The rules governing admissible evidence in arbitration are typically less stringent than in a trial setting.

Neutral evaluation: In a Neutral evaluation, both sides of the case present it to an "evaluator," usually an expert in the field. Each side's evidence and arguments are assessed, and advice is given based on the evaluator's findings on what could be done to solve the problem.

Benefits of alternative dispute resolution

One of the essential benefits of ADR is that it saves money on court cases. It is believed that the non-adversarial method of dispute resolution is more community-oriented and cheaper. It has given rise to its adoption over the years.

An arbitrator with experience in the relevant field may occasionally preside over an ADR process (thus relieving the cost of retaining expert evidence).

Second, ADR enables individuals or businesses to maintain their privacy. Contrarily, courts maintain copies of transcripts and decisions disseminated and added to the permanent public record.

ADR frequently saves time since it avoids dealing with the backlog of court cases and the associated delays. 

Drawbacks of alternative dispute resolution

Some of the biggest problems with ADR are that you can't keep track of what happened before, the hearings can be changed at any time, there's no public oversight, and you can't get all the facts.

Bottom line

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is gaining popularity as a viable substitute to the traditional court system because of its perceived informality, lower cost, and quicker resolution time. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) can also allow parties more control over the timing and nature of the resolution to their disagreement. However, its success mainly depends on the aggrieved parties' willingness to settle for ADR. Explore the various alternative dispute resolution options presented by the trial courts.

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