The Primer on Alternative Dispute Resolution in Family Law

Family law disputes can be emotionally and financially draining, often leading to lengthy court battles. To alleviate the burdens of traditional litigation, many jurisdictions offer alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods. ADR provides families with a more collaborative and less adversarial approach to resolving conflicts. This article serves as a primer on alternative dispute resolution in family law, exploring its different methods and highlighting its benefits.


Mediation is a widely used form of ADR in family law cases. It involves a neutral third-party mediator who facilitates discussions between the parties to help them reach a mutually acceptable agreement. The mediator does not make decisions but guides the process, encourages open communication, and assists in finding common ground. Mediation promotes cooperation, empowers the parties to actively participate in the resolution process, and allows for more customized solutions that cater to the unique needs of the family. It is possible to have a lawyer like one from Forte Family Lawyers when doing mediation.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law is another form of ADR that focuses on resolving disputes through a cooperative approach. In this process, each party retains their own attorney trained in collaborative law, and all commit to finding a resolution outside of court. The parties engage in transparent and constructive negotiations, often involving other professionals such as financial advisors or child specialists, to address various aspects of the dispute. If the collaborative process fails and litigation becomes necessary, both attorneys must withdraw, ensuring a genuine commitment to settlement.


Arbitration is a more formalized ADR method, resembling a private trial. The parties present their cases to a neutral arbitrator, who acts as a private judge. The arbitrator listens to both sides, considers evidence, and renders a binding decision, known as an award. While arbitration resembles litigation, it offers more flexibility and privacy, allowing the parties to tailor the process to their specific needs. It can be a preferable alternative for resolving complex family law disputes, particularly when confidentiality is a concern.

Parenting Coordination

Parenting coordination is a specialized ADR process designed to help separated or divorced parents resolve ongoing parenting conflicts. A parenting coordinator, usually a mental health professional or a lawyer with relevant training, assists parents in implementing and adhering to parenting plans. They provide guidance, facilitate communication, and help address issues related to co-parenting, such as visitation schedules, decision-making, and conflict resolution. Parenting coordination aims to reduce parental conflict, improve communication, and prioritize the best interests of the children.

Benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution methods offer numerous advantages in family law cases. These include:

  • Cost-effectiveness: ADR is generally more cost effective than traditional litigation, as it avoids lengthy court processes and associated legal fees.
  • Time-saving: ADR typically resolves disputes more efficiently than litigation, allowing families to reach agreements more quickly and move forward.
  • Preservation of Relationships: ADR promotes cooperation and communication, helping parties maintain healthier relationships and reducing the adversarial nature of traditional litigation.
  • Customization: ADR methods allow for personalized solutions that consider the specific needs and dynamics of each family, fostering greater satisfaction and compliance with the outcome.
  • Confidentiality: ADR processes are often confidential, protecting sensitive family information from public disclosure.

Alternative dispute resolution provides families with a less adversarial and more collaborative approach to resolving conflicts in family law cases. Methods such as mediation, collaborative law, arbitration, and parenting coordination offer efficient and cost-effective alternatives to traditional litigation. By embracing these ADR methods, families can reduce the emotional strain, preserve relationships, and craft customized solutions that prioritize the best interests of all involved parties.