Can a family law lawyer provide alternative dispute resolution options?

If you are a family law attorney and have skills in mediation, arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), you can help your clients resolve their legal disputes more quickly, amicably and cost effectively. These forms of ADR are a popular alternative to traditional court litigation. However, you may want to consider the pros and cons of adding ADR to your skill set before proceeding with training. 

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A mediator serves as a neutral and unbiased third party that is trained to facilitate productive conversations between the principals in a dispute, allowing them to explore areas of compromise and conciliation. While the process is informal and typically takes place in a conference room, it is often less adversarial than the trial environment. In addition, it is much faster than traditional trial preparation and can be completed in less time. 

Family mediation is available in most jurisdictions. The family court, for example, offers free or low-cost mediation services in most of its courts.  

Parenting coordination is another ADR option that is designed to help parents resolve disagreements about parenting time and parental responsibilities. While it is generally used in conjunction with a divorce, it can be used in other circumstances as well. The people who serve as parenting coordinators are usually family law lawyers, mental health professionals or social workers. In some states, the courts may also use retired judges as parenting coordinators. 

While arbitration is more formal than mediation, it can be less costly and quicker than traditional court trial preparation. A neutral arbitrator hears evidence from both spouses and then makes a decision. The process is similar to a trial in that each side will have a lawyer present. In addition to divorce cases, arbitration is often used in custody and visitation issues as well. 

Although the benefits of ADR are clear, there are some cases that simply cannot be settled without a judge or jury. Nevertheless, the vast majority of family law disputes can be resolved outside of the courtroom. This is especially true for those who choose to utilize ADR processes such as mediation and collaborative law. A good family law attorney can help you decide which of these alternative dispute resolution options is right for your situation. He or she can also act as your adviser throughout the ADR process to ensure that you receive the best possible outcome.