Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)


Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a means of resolving conflict outside of the courtroom. The courts and others offer a variety of ADR programs to help people resolve disputes without a trial. ADR consists of a variety of processes and techniques designed to help disagreeing parties come to an agreement short of litigation. These processes are generally confidential, less formal, less expensive, less time-consuming and less stressful than traditional court proceedings.

Generally, an ADR program is fair if it is voluntary, confidential, enforceable by the parties (if an agreement is reached), and led by a neutral person, like a mediator, who has no personal interest in the dispute. As court cases, costs of litigation rises, and time delays continue to trouble court systems, more states have begun experimenting with ADR programs.

Some of these programs are voluntary; others are mandatory. However, ADR is well known as a practical means to court which overwhelms parties on both sides. ADR is not a legal proceeding. Public courts may be asked to review the validity of ADR methods, but they will rarely overturn ADR decisions and awards if the disputing parties formed a valid contract to abide by them.

Types of Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution differs from litigation. All parties utilizing alternative dispute resolution services are responsible for the outcome. Parties who choose to go through the overwhelming process of litigation ultimately rely on a judge. Before litigation, there were fist fights and war. Based on European law, the U.S. created courts with a jury system over disputes, feuds and settlements with the Judiciary Act of 1789. Citizens preferred to handle their own affairs and created community tribunals, the first alternative dispute resolutions. By the 1900s, alternative dispute resolution was institutionalized through Congressional Acts and governmental departments. For example, labor unions uses collective bargaining, which is an alternative dispute resolution process.

The different types of ADR are arbitration, mediation, arbitration-mediation, mini trial, summary jury trial, early neutral evaluations, negotiations, conciliation, and  conflict resolution. Arbitration is a legal method to settle disputes outside of court with one or more arbitrators acting as a judge or judges rendering a legal binding decision. Mediation-Arbitration is a combination of mediation and arbitration using part of the mediation process to resolve the conflict then switching to the arbitration process. Mediation is a not a legal process but can be used to settle disputes outside of court with one or two mediators facilitating healthy discussions between parties rendering a mutual decision.

However, there is no legally binding decision. Parties must their file agreement with the courts. They may use an attorney to file agreements. The only thing the judge sees is the agreement.

Likewise, conciliation is a not a legal process but can be used to settle disputes outside of court with one or two mediators facilitating healthy discussions between parties rendering a mutual decision. Parties use the conciliation process to repair relationships. Summary Jury Trial is a mock trial used to influence chances of a settlement. Parties present their cases including evidence and witnesses.

It saves a lot of money but the opposing party has the opportunity to weigh chances in a real trial, if financially beneficial. Mini Trial is not a trial. Parties present their case to a panel of experts or officials to resolve the conflict. Early Neutral Evaluation is an objective analysis of a dispute. Parties present their case to an objective evaluator for an evaluation of their case. The evaluator may inform parties about the best way to settle dispute through ADR or litigation.

Negotiation is a means to an end in the mediation process. The negotiation process begins after parties present their issue and offer first solution, Its the back-and-forth until parties reach a mutual agreement. Conciliation and Conflict Resolution are alternative dispute resolutions that is not in any way litigious. Parties find peaceful solutions to an objective third party, usually from a professional helper.

Significance of ADR

The significance of alternative dispute resolution is the creativity and cost-effectiveness. No one knows a 100% how a judge may rule. ADR give parties the opportunity to determine the outcome in less time and money. The two main types of ADR are arbitration and mediation.

Binding arbitration is a legally binding settlement. Non-binding arbitration and mediation are not legally binding settlements, unless filed with court. The basic areas of specialization within alternative dispute resolution are civil, commercial, community, elderly.

Other basic specialization areas are family, international peace making, on-line dispute resolution, and workplace. There are just as many specializations within alternative dispute resolution as there are personal and professions aspects of life where conflict arise. The following link at lists several specialty areas of mediation.

Theories in Conflict Resolution, Conflict Resolution, Conflict in Action, ADR Services

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