In Washington State the parties in many family law cases must try to resolve their dispute by some form of â€œalternative dispute resolutionâ€ (ADR). This Legal Guide discusses the different types and procedures for ADR, with an emphasis on the most common form, which is mediation.
What is ADR?
ADR, or Alternative Dispute Resolution, is an informal procedure designed to reduce or eliminate the need for court proceedings by encouraging or requiring resolution of disputes, usually by counseling or mediation. In counseling, the parties jointly meet with a counselor to discuss their issues, and try to voluntarily come to an agreement on all or some issues. In mediation, the parties meet with a mediator who is trained to help people come to an agreement; the parties often sit in different rooms while the mediator goes back and forth with proposals and suggestions for a resolution. In arbitration, the arbitrator hears evidence from both sides, and then renders a decision which is binding on both parties unless one party appeals to the court.
When Is ADR Required?
Cases requiring mediation or some other form of ADR include Petitions to Modify Parenting Plans, and contested Relocation cases. ADR is required prior to a trial on relocation, custody, and visitation cases. It is also a precondition to filing a court motion to modify an existing parenting plan. Most parties choose mediation as their method of ADR.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is highly effective for resolving the difficult disputes in divorce and family law. In fact, Washington law requires that parties try out-of-court dispute resolution before contested cases can be set for trial. The mediator acts as a neutral third party to help you and your spouse or partner work through your custody and visitation disagreements. The goal is a negotiated, fair agreement that avoids litigation. A mediated solution is almost always quicker, less costly and less stressful than going to court. It allows you to control the outcome to a greater extent and it reduces future conflicts.