When individuals think about legal matters, they often picture a courtroom with a judge being the ultimate decision-maker. Although legal issues are often handled in a courtroom setting with a judge hearing both sides of the case, there are other ways for a determination to be made and a binding legal decision to be handed down. These include mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

The First Court Date

At the time of the first court date, the parties will appear before the judge. At that time, no testimony will be heard or evidence taken. The purpose of the initial meeting is to schedule a hearing and inquire about mediation and other types of ADR. During this initial proceeding, it’s important to remain quiet and not engage in emotional discussions with the other party or allow them to affect you with hurtful statements.

The judge will ask if there has been a mediation or other ADR meeting held. If not, the judge may recommend a mediator be arranged for the parties. As more than half of all divorces are decided based on a mediation agreement, this process is extremely important for working out issues between the parties so that the divorce decree can be entered.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a meeting, or multiple meetings, between the two parties and an unbiased third party. A mediator is an individual who works with the parties to come to agreeable terms so that it can be brought back before the judge for the final decision. Mediation is often used in civil cases, family law, and small claims proceedings.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) includes mediation but also consists of other forms of out-of-court agreements, such as arbitration, conciliation, and case evaluation. These meetings are conducted by a legal professional who works with the parties to reach agreeable terms between the two. ADR is a good option when children and extensive finances are issues to be discussed.

What Are the Differences Between Mediation and Other Types of ADR?

There are quite a few differences between mediation and other forms of ADR. The differences between the two are as follows:

  • Cost: Mediation is a free service whereas other types of ADR, such as arbitration, will have fees involved, including an hourly fee and attorney fees.
  • Third Party: With mediation, the mediator doesn’t have to be a legal professional whereas other forms of ADR involve a legal professional to preside over the meetings.
  • Selection Process: When the time arrives to choose a third party, a mediator will be assigned from the Multi-Door Dispute Resolution Division. For other ADR proceedings, the parties can choose a mediator from a list.
  • Length of Time: Mediation is often more timely than other forms of ADR as the calendar is likely filled and may take many weeks to schedule. Also, mediations can be more emotional than other ADR proceedings. Legal professionals in the ADR meetings are better able to move things along in a more scheduled, professional tone whereas mediations often allow time for feelings and emotion to come into play during the conversations.

Mediation and Other Types of ADR Achieve Goals and Streamline Divorce Proceedings

When deciding to use mediation and other types of ADR to come to agreeable terms, both types of options are beneficial and work well. A mediation agreement helps to streamline the divorce proceeding and enable the judge to sign the divorce decree knowing that all terms have been agreed to prior to the hearing. Nothing that is said during mediation agreements can be used in court outside of the documented mediation agreement. This process enables the court system to operate more effectively and be less costly as well as allow the parties to come to mutually-agreeable terms in the divorce.

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