Understanding Alternative Dispute Resolution
Anyone who’s been involved in a legal dispute knows just how time-consuming and expensive it can be, with much of the costs stemming from legal and attorney fees. Thankfully, over the past few decades, the state of Florida has implemented new resources to help resolve these issues using something called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which utilizes mediators and arbitrators. In fact, the state now has 5,962 individuals certified as mediators, according to data put out by the Florida Courts.
If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of ADR, call our firm, Miguel A. Brizuela, P.A., serving Miami, Florida, and those throughout Southern Florida, including Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
Alternative Dispute Resolution: An Overview
Alternative Dispute Resolution is any approach to resolving a legal dispute that doesn’t involve litigation or going to court. There are various kinds of ADR, with the most popular being mediation, arbitration, and negotiation. Most attorneys will advise their clients to at least try some sort of ADR before resorting to litigation to save everyone time, money, and stress. When used correctly by parties who are motivated to resolve their conflict quickly, it can be very effective. However, if the two parties cannot communicate with one another and are unable to see eye-to-eye on even the smallest component, ADR may not work.
Mediation is a popular method of ADR that is used most commonly in family law issues (such as divorce proceedings or child custody disputes) or conflicts between business partners. Mediation can be incredibly effective for those who still wish to preserve the relationship they have with the other party but are at odds on one or more issues. With this process, the involved parties agree to use an impartial mediator to facilitate productive conversations so they can come to an agreement. Importantly, the mediator doesn’t make any decisions and their only role is to aid in civil and effective conversation.
Similar to mediation, arbitration uses an impartial individual known as an arbitrator who helps the parties involved in a dispute. The key difference is that an arbitrator actually makes a decision for the disputing parties after hearing arguments and evidence. This type of ADR is commonly seen in business disputes and is often written into the business plan. It can also be helpful for those who want a third party to resolve their dispute but they don’t want the hassle of going to trial.
Negotiation is often the first method of ADR that’s used when two parties face a legal dispute. This approach remains extremely flexible to fit the needs of the participants and allows each party agency and control over the agreements they come to. Negotiation can occur directly between the two parties or with the help of an alternative dispute resolution legal counsel. This method can work for almost all disputes, but does require that the parties be open and willing to communicate with one another.
The two major benefits of using these methods are their cost-effectiveness and ability to resolve your case much quicker than traditional litigation. Additionally, most forms of ADR mean that the details of your dispute are kept private. This is in contrast to litigation that can end up in court which will be open to the public. Lastly, cases that are resolved using ADR tend to stay resolved since there are few options for appeal.
Limitations and Challenges
When assessing the benefits of ADR versus litigation, some people may be uncomfortable with the open-ended nature of the process and having no assurance that a resolution will be made. In these cases, ADR may be viewed as a waste of time when they ultimately expect their case to go to court. Others may be uncomfortable with the finality of ADR since decisions made by an arbitrator are legally-binding and in many cases, the participants are barred from appealing the decision.
Choosing the Right Method for You
Consider the following factors when deciding whether ADR is right for you:
The nature and complexity of the dispute: ADR works best for fairly straightforward disputes or to clear up one component of a larger legal issue (for example, a divorcing couple who’ve agreed on everything else but asset division).
Your desired outcome: If you’re set upon a particular outcome, ADR will give you more flexibility in how you bring that about.
How much control of the process: ADR gives you more control over your situation, especially if you’re negotiating or using a mediator. When you bring your case to a judge, the decision is out of your hands and in the hands of the court.
Cost and time: If you prioritize your time and money, ADR is almost always the preferred option.
Role of Legal Counsel
No matter what approach you choose, a skilled attorney can help you through the process. They can often serve in the role of the mediator or arbitrator, or they can simply be a resource for you. You may also wish to consult with an attorney when engaging in ADR to make sure you’re staying informed on the process and you can make educated decisions.
Seek Your Best Outcome
If you’re in the Miami, Florida, area and would like to explore your options for ADR, contact our team at Miguel A. Brizuela, P.A. to get started.