ADR: Paths to Settlement
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“ADR” or “Alternative Dispute Resolution” is term that describes a wide variety of methods used to reduce or eliminate the problems associated with disagreements. These methods include mediation, facilitation, negotiation, settlement conferences, arbitration, fact-finding, and early neutral evaluation. ADR services are used to supplement or replace the use of a traditional trial, which is often expensive, difficult, and time-consuming. Even when people are unable or unwilling to fully resolve their dispute, ADR can help to clarify the issues and positions so that the case is better prepared for trial.
Almost all of the district courts in New Mexico provide access to mediation services for domestic relations cases (divorce) and for child abuse and child neglect cases. Some state courts also provide access to mediation services for other types of civil cases (for example, for home foreclosures or disputes with neighbors). Ask if your court offers ADR services for the issues in your case! If you are not able to find the ADR service that you need through the courts, you may be able to find assistance in your community.
Reasons to choose ADR
Choice & Satisfaction
ADR methods offer you more chances to express differences and clarify problems. ADR can offer more flexible choices for resolving a disagreement. The parties craft the solution. This means that the people are often happier with the result
Cost & Time Savings
ADR services can be scheduled quickly and often are provided at low cost or free. Contact the court in your area for more information.
While court trials are public, ADR services can often provide a private and confidential process. Providers of ADR services are usually prohibited from exposing details about what occurred in an ADR session. Ask your court about the rules of confidentiality that apply to the ADR services offered.
ADR Services Include:
In mediation, the people who share the dispute work together to decide how to be resolve the situation. This process is guided by a mediator, who helps people to discuss the issues and to reach an agreement to resolve some or all of the problem. Mediation is informal and allows for discussion and creative solutions. A mediator may have a lot of legal knowledge, or very little. Mediators do not blame, take sides, judge who is right or wrong, or make decisions about what should happen. Mediators encourage people with disagreements to listen to each other and to discuss solutions that will work for everyone involved.
Arbitration is a formal process with strict rules about evidence and conduct. The parties to a dispute agree in writing to comply with (or “bind” themselves to) the final decision before the process begins. Similar to a judge, an arbitrator with special training hears each side, reviews evidence, and makes a final decision or “award”. The process is quicker and can be cheaper than a trial court. The award may be enforced by a court, and any appeal of the decision is strictly limited.
Early Neutral Evaluation
A subject matter expert evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the case and gives an opinion about the likely outcome of the case (if it is ultimately resolved by a court). The information can help the parties to better understand the strength of the available evidence and how the law applies to their situation. With the knowledge gained from this process, a better decision can be made about whether to use another ADR method, such as mediation, reach an agreement on the issues.
A settlement conference can be many different things, depending on the person conducting the session. The impartial person may be a retired judge, a lawyer, or someone with strong mediation and negotiation skills. Sometimes the process can be like a short trial, with a focus on the facts and the law. Sometimes it can be more like a mediation, with a focus on the values and feelings of each side. Both sides are encouraged to work quickly towards an agreement so that each may move forward in their lives without the expense and strain of a long trial process.
A settlement facilitator is an impartial guide who helps each side to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their case and to make settlement offers. The parties may meet together or in separate rooms with the impartial facilitator going between rooms to assist both sides to reach a solution of issues. The facilitator is usually a subject matter expert, with an understanding of the law(s) of the case, and may be a lawyer or a retired judge.