What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is an umbrella term for a variety of methods and processes used to resolve disputes outside of court. ADR can be used at any stage of the litigation process: from preventing legal action from arising in the first place to making sure legal action is resolved quickly, fairly, and cost-effectively. These various techniques are designed to achieve one simple goal – bringing about a fair resolution to the conflict as quickly as possible. ADR processes can be divided into three main groups: mediation, collaborative solutions, and arbitrator. In essence, all these methods aim to bring you fair resolutions faster than going through the courts.

Mediation

Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third party assists you and the other party to come to an agreement suitable for all of you. This can be achieved either in one session or a series of sessions over a period of time. A mediator will not make a final decision on your dispute but assist you to find your own solution. Mediation can be used to resolve any type of dispute including commercial, employment, neighborly, family, and financial issues. Mediation is a voluntary process. There is no compulsion or authority for the mediator to make decisions on your behalf. The mediator’s role is to help you and the other party find a solution. Mediation is a flexible and informal process. You can agree on the ground rules of the mediation with the other party. The mediator’s role will be to assist you in reaching an agreement that is fair, just, and practicable.

Collaborative solutions

Collaborative problem solving is an innovative and creative way of resolving disputes that seek to address issues linked to the parties’ needs and interests rather than focusing on their legal rights. It is a form of ADR whereby the parties work together to find a solution to their dispute. They do this by taking part in a series of facilitated meetings with the assistance of a trained collaborative lawyer. The collaborative process is completely voluntary. Parties enter into the process on the understanding that they can leave it whenever they want and that they are free to pursue other dispute resolution mechanisms. It is a non-adversarial process. The parties have the right to have their interests and needs met without being attacked by the other party. The collaborative process is highly confidential. Collaborative lawyers do not make any court appearances on behalf of their clients. They do not draft or file any court documents. They do not seek to enforce any agreements that may be made during the collaborative process.

Arbitration

Arbitration is a process where an independent third party, the arbitrator, hears both sides of the dispute and makes a decision as to how the dispute should be resolved. The decision of the arbitrator is final and binding on both sides. Arbitration is often used in commercial disputes to decide issues such as the price for products or services, the terms of a contract, or an issue between partners in a joint venture. Arbitration is generally a more formal and structured process than mediation. Arbitration can be conducted in different ways. The most common methods are the following: There are a number of advantages of using arbitration to solve disputes. It is a quick and cost-effective process. The arbitrator is independent. The arbitrator’s decision is final and binding on both parties. Arbitration is confidential so neither party can disclose information that may damage the other party.

Arbitration with judicial supervision

Where a dispute has arisen between parties within an existing contract, the parties may wish to agree on terms of what would happen if the contract were to break down. The parties may decide to refer the dispute to arbitration and include a clause in the contract that the arbitrator would be required to make a decision in accordance with the law. In this case, the arbitrator would make a decision taking into account the terms of the contract and the law. This is known as arbitration with judicial supervision.

Summary

Alternative dispute resolution methods bring about fair resolutions quicker than going through the courts. Mediation is a voluntary process. Parties work together to find a solution to their dispute. Arbitration is a more formal and structured process than mediation. Arbitration with judicial supervision is a hybrid method of resolving disputes.

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