Contested issues in Family Law cases do not necessarily have to be resolved through a judge’s ruling after an expensive and time-consuming trial. In fact, a speedy, cost-effective and fair outcome may be reached through Alternative Dispute Resolution. In addition, parties are often able to maintain more control over the outcome of their cases by participating in Alternative Dispute Resolution.
What are the different methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution?
Mediation: The Parties work with an impartial Mediator to reach an agreement on the relevant issues. The Parties meet with the Mediator as often as needed to draft an agreement. The Mediator educates the Parties on the law. Agreements reached through Mediation are non-binding until the Parties present the agreement to the Judge in Probate and Family Court, and it is approved by the court. At that point, the written agreement can be enforced.
Conciliation: The Parties work with an impartial Conciliator to reach a final agreement on contested issues. Conciliation is appropriate if the Parties have attempted to draft an agreement and are unable to resolve one or two issues. The Parties generally meet once with the Conciliator. The Conciliator is more active in the process than a Mediator, suggesting likely outcomes should the case go to trial. The Conciliator helps the parties to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their respective legal positions. Parties may participate in Conciliation with or without individual counsel present. Agreements reached through Conciliation are non-binding until the Parties present the agreement to the Judge in Probate and Family Court, and have it approved. At that point, the written agreement can be enforced.
Arbitration: The Parties work with a neutral third party who serves as an Arbitrator or “Private Judge”. The Arbitrator listens to testimony and reviews evidence. Based on the testimony and evidence, the Arbitrator renders a decision which is binding on the Parties and can be enforced in court. Parties are usually represented by counsel at an Arbitration. An Arbitration can take as long as a trial, however, it can be scheduled and concluded much more quickly than a trial.
There are several benefits that come along with choosing to use a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution. The parties can choose the mediator/conciliator/arbitrator that is appropriate for their situation. In most cases, parties can be heard sooner than court proceedings and the hearings are shorter in length. The time and place of the hearings are based around the convenience of the parties involved.
If you feel that alternative dispute resolution is a right fit for you and the other parties involved, please feel free to contact Patricia S. Fernandez & Associates and a member of our legal team will explain your options and will help you to choose the strategy that is right for you.