Mediation & Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, includes mediation and arbitration. These are methods that parties can choose to pursue as an alternative to litigation. Many parties seek ADR as a viable option because it can be cheaper, more amicable, and efficient. There are many benefits to pursuing mediation for family law cases, including better outcomes for blended families and shared children. Attorney William Wallshein is both a skilled litigator and mediation facilitator. He can assist you and your family, whether you choose to proceed with mediation or arbitration.
The Mediation Process
In Florida, parties seeking divorce are encouraged to attend a settlement conference with a mediator prior to scheduling a divorce hearing. Parties are also welcome to seek advice from an unbiased neutral party, or mediator, to decide terms of their divorce or child custody dispute. Some families choose to elect a mediator with the help of their attorneys instead of litigating in family court. All discussions and advice during mediation remain confidential, even if no resolution is reached and the parties choose to move forward with litigation. This is critical, because otherwise parties could use material the other party conceded or discussed during mediation against them in litigation.
Many parties find mediation helpful for discussing sensitive and lengthy issues like property division, parenting plans, what shared custody will look like and how legal custody will affect the child’s schooling, religious upbringing and major life choices. It can be difficult for parties to express their needs and desires through discovery and litigation, but mediation is an open forum for discussion, with a goal towards collaborative resolution of shared issues.
In arbitration, the parties may mutually select an arbiter. This is a major advantage, because obviously in litigation the parties don’t have the option of choosing a presiding judge. An arbiter is usually a retired judge, attorney or neutral with a breadth of experience in conflict resolution. The arbiter is typically renowned in their respective field and could draw on knowledge to assist in reaching a resolution for the parties. The difference between arbitration and mediation is key. If the parties elect the option, the arbiter’s decision can be legally binding, cannot be appealed, altered, modified, or thrown out for another avenue like litigation. The parties must expressly choose for the arbiter’s decision to be binding, otherwise the decision is non-binding, and the parties can still proceed with litigation if they prefer.
Parties use arbitration for family law cases for several reasons, namely, to resolve issues sooner, to take the litigious nature out of delicate subject matter like child custody and visitation rights, to solve issues from a conciliatory standpoint, and to make economic decisions. Unlike litigation, which can take months or years to resolve and is very costly for both parties, an arbiter will make a decision quickly, often within a matter of weeks. There is no long wait for a hearing date, very limited court appearances, and parties can achieve closure.
Reach Out to an Attorney for Help
If you are in the midst of a contentious divorce or wish to curtail legal fees and expenses, you should seriously consider alternative dispute resolution. Mediation or arbitration could save you thousands of dollars and months or years of time in dead-end litigation. West Palm Beach mediation lawyer William Wallshein has extensive experience in mediation and ADR. Contact Mr. Wallshein today for a consultation to discuss alternative dispute options.