Alternative Dispute Resolution in Family Law

Aug 18, 2020 Divorce

What are the Alternatives to Litigation for Family Law Matters?

Family law matters can be challenging and stressful. To reduce the costs of litigation and the stress that sometimes comes with going to trial, parties should consider whether their matter can be resolved outside of court. That is where Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR, can come into play. ADR helps people find solutions to their legal disputes without going to trial. The main types of ADR are negotiations, mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law.


In negotiation, the parties themselves and/or their attorneys communicate directly with each other to try to resolve their dispute. Unlike the other ADR processes discussed below, there is no neutral third party to facilitate the discussions between the parties. Most parties will use some form of negotiation during their divorce proceedings, as courts require parties to engage in a good-faith attempt to settle their issues prior to a hearing.


In mediation, a neutral third party facilitates communication between the parties and helps them in trying to reach a mutually acceptable resolution of their dispute. The process is informal as the mediator’s role is to guide the parties towards their own resolution. Additionally, California law generally makes mediation a confidential process.

Unlike a judge in traditional litigation, or an arbitrator in arbitration, the mediator does not decide the outcome; the parties themselves decide whether to resolve the dispute and on what terms. Parties may decide to go to trial if they decide not to settle. One of the advantages with mediation is that if the process works, it is generally less expensive than litigation. Mediation is used for divorce proceedings, as well as family law matters.


Arbitration is less formal than a trial, but like a trial, the parties present evidence and argument to a neutral, unbiased, and independent third party, the arbitrator, who decides the outcome. Like other types of ADR, the parties will need to mutually agree to arbitration. Under limited circumstances, the court may also order the parties to submit to judicial arbitration to resolve issues pertaining to characterization, valuation and division of certain property.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law is a nonadversarial group effort to reach an agreed-upon resolution of the issues without court involvement. It usually involves the parties and their lawyers, accountants, therapists, forensic experts and any other professionals engaged by the parties to assist them in resolving their disputes. If an impasse is reached or either party desires to withdraw from the collaborative process and return to court, new attorneys must be retained.

Contact Our Orange County Family Law Firm Today to Learn the Option That’s Best for You

The needs of your family are unique. ADR allows parties to come to creative solutions in resolving their matter. It also permits parties to reach a solution that meets both of their needs, as well as the needs of their children, as opposed to having a court decide their matter that may not understand the dynamics. Navigating the divorce process can be challenging, but ADR may provide a means for parties to resolve their matter peacefully, quickly and without ever having to go to court. Contact our Irvine family lawyers today to finalize your family  law matters without stepping in a courtroom.