There are several types of ADR, but the most well-known type is mediation, a process where the neutral third party acts as a mediator between the parties, as the parties themselves mostly negotiate with one another (often with the assistance of attorneys).
Mediators are present for negotiations and can offer suggestions, but do not make decisions. They serve as a witness that the parties have agreed on certain terms. Arbitration works in a similar manner, but the disputing parties agree to let the arbitrator finalize the terms they have negotiated so they stand legally.
ADR has existed in the legal system for hundreds of years, but became more popular as an option since the 1960s with the onset of Civil Rights legislation. In divorce, it has become the preferred method for many couples because:
- It is generally less expensive than courthouse litigation
- It allows the parties involved to take an active role in decisions and hear the other side in a controlled environment
- It promotes civilized communication and compromise, which are useful tools, especially for parties who will need to continue to interact with one another in the future
- Creative solutions can be worked out through the process of mediation, rather than being stuck with a court order
- It’s more private, whereas open court is in public
What to Expect in Mediation Sessions
When professional mediators are asked about what happens in mediation sessions, the answers vary as much as the reasons behind any given divorce.
But one thing mediation is not designed to do is fix a marriage. It exists to provide couples with a way to agree to a settlement by utilizing a method that avoids the stress, emotional anguish, time and expense of litigation. The goal of a mediator is to reduce the adversarial nature of the dispute and guide participants into deciding their own futures, rather than leaving the choices up to a judge.
Mediation isn’t a blanket solution in every divorce case, and it doesn’t always work, but for those who go in with an open mind and a true desire to come to a mutually-satisfying resolution, it’s often what brings the best outcome for all concerned.