Resolving legal disputes without a court trial

The Madison County Record Jan. 16, 2010, 5:14am

Disputes happen. Sometimes they involve a former spouse, other times a business owner, employee or neighbor. Disputes come in all types, sizes and intensities, and can involve lengthy and expensive court battles.

Alternative dispute resolution, commonly called ADR, is one way to settle disputes without a formal court trial. Generally, they are less time-consuming and cost-effective, making them attractive to a variety of individuals and organizations.

While ADR methods can include mediation, arbitration, collaborative law, a private judge and pre-trial settlement conference, the two most common methods used in Illinois are mediation and arbitration.

So if you're involved in a legal dispute, and the idea of using ADR appeals to you, here are some things you should know.

ADR is a confidential process in which an impartial third party called a mediator or arbitrator acts to facilitate the resolution of the parties' dispute. It is a formal, non-adversarial process with the objective being to help the parties reach a mutually-accessible agreement on all or part of their dispute.

Decision-making rests with the parties, not with the mediator or arbitrator. The mediator or arbitrator will not render an opinion or decision. They make no finding of fault or liability and cannot impose a decision on the parties. Rather, they help guide the issues of the dispute and assist the parties in exploring settlement alternatives and reassess their goals.

Who serves as mediators and arbitrators? They are a neutral third party who is selected by the disputing parties. They may be an attorney, retired judge or other individual with specific experience or training in a particular professional field. Some court systems have mediators who are certified in a particular type of the law.

Lawyers also play a role to the parties involved. They can assist a party in choosing the most appropriate ADR method and should understand the procedures and preparation necessary to mediate or arbitrate the dispute. They can also guide and represent you through any method of ADR.

For further information about law-related issues, contact an Illinois State Bar Association member-lawyer in your area or visit

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