Alternative Dispute Resolution in Family Law Cases

Family law cases can be long, tiresome, emotionally draining and expensive. Moreover, because these cases involve the most private issues, resolving these disputes outside of the courtroom is often best for all involved. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is the process of resolving the legal battle without the cost and delay that is often present in these types of cases. There are a number of different approaches that can be taken: arbitration, mediation, and settlement conferences are examples of ADR, and in nearly all family law cases, some form of ADR will be ordered.

ADR can be the preferred option in some cases for a number of different reasons. It is most often a much faster and cheaper process than litigation. Further, provides a better opportunity for the opposing parties to have control of the outcome of the case as it offers more creative solutions than would be available if the matter proceeded to court.

A settlement conference can be implemented early on in a case and, if effective, can resolve legal issues in a very expeditious and economical fashion. A successful settlement will result in the two opposing parties reaching an agreement together, through their respective legal counsel, without the need for a neutral third party or judge.

Mediation differs from a settlement conference in that it uses a neutral third party outside of court. Mediation is commonly ordered in family law matters and aims at bringing the opposing parties to a mutually beneficial agreement without litigating the matter in court. This is done with the help of a neutral mediator, most often an experienced attorney or retired judicial officer who utilizes techniques to enhance communication and understanding among the opposing parties.

Mediation is an informal technique and the process is private. While the mediator is experienced and knowledgeable in the area of law surrounding the legal issue, the mediator does not offer their own view or legal opinion on the contested matter. While the mediator helps in resolving the issue, the decision to settle or proceed to court is still fully in the hands of the parties involved.

In the end, each dispute is unique and where mediation might lead to mutually agreeable outcome in one case, it might not resolve any issues in another. It is important to explore all options available in your legal matter.

Would you like to know more? Contact Denise M. Gonzales at or 800-808-0012.

From the November 2018 Pollart Miller Newsletter