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Mediation / Alternative Dispute Resolution

Did you know that most civil lawsuits settle without a trial? Did you know that you don’t have to always try your case in court in order to solve your dispute? Other ways to resolve lawsuits are known as alternative dispute resolution (also called ADR). ADR is a general term which includes mediation, facilitation, and other out-of-court strategies for resolving cases without going to trial. ADR allows the parties to play a more active role in resolving their dispute in a more informal setting. Cases can usually be resolved more quickly when ADR is used.

In ADR, trained, impartial persons decide disputes or help parties decide disputes themselves. These persons are called neutrals. Neutrals are normally chosen by the disputing parties or by the court. Neutrals can help parties resolve disputes without having to go to court and follow the formal courtroom procedures. You often have more time and flexibility to fully explain your side of the case using ADR than you would in court.

One of the most popular forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution is mediation. Mediation is an informal process in which a neutral third party – known as a Mediator – helps you and the other party reach an agreement on some or all of your differences. In the mediation process, the mediator helps the parties identify important issues, clarify misunderstandings, explore solutions, and negotiate a settlement rather than having a costly and time-consuming trial. In mediation, decision-making by the parties must be voluntary, so only those issues upon which both parties can agree will be included in the settlement. For a complete explanation about the costs of mediation, the selection of mediators, the mediation process, and other issues about mediation, please read the Indiana Rules for Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Some Indiana county courts have programs for low-cost or no-cost mediation services to families who are involved in divorce or paternity cases and are unable to pay for private mediators. In such cases, if you meet financial eligibility requirements, you typically only pay a small fee. To learn more about how you can receive assistance with mediation costs, contact your lawyer, your local court staff, or visit Alternative Dispute Resolution Fund in Domestic Relations Cases.

If you have read this page and would like more information on mediators, you can visit the Indiana Commission for Continuing Legal Education's Directory of Registered Mediators on the web. The Indiana Self-Service Legal Center makes no warranties as to the accuracy or quality of these web site links.

Advantages of ADRDisadvantages of ADR
  • You and the other party maintain more control over the resolution of your own problems.
  • Disputes can be settled promptly. A mediation session can be scheduled as soon as everyone agrees to use mediation to resolve your disputes, even before a lawsuit is filed.
  • ADR costs can be significantly less than taking a case to court.
  • ADR can promote better relationships through cooperation, creative problem-solving, and improved communications.
  • Resolving the case cooperatively helps avoid further conflict and involvement of the children.
  • Parties are more likely to abide by agreements that they create themselves.
  • In most types of ADR, settlement is entirely voluntary. If you cannot reach an agreement on all the issues, you still have the right to take your disputes before a judge.

Because of these advantages, many parties choose ADR to resolve a dispute instead of filing a lawsuit. Even when a lawsuit has been filed, ADR can be used before the parties' positions harden and the lawsuit becomes costly. ADR has been used to resolve disputes even after a trial, when the result is appealed.

  • ADR may not be suitable for every dispute.
  • Some forms of ADR are binding. This means that the, the parties may give up certain court protections, including a decision by a judge or jury under formal rules of evidence and procedure, and review for legal error by an appellate court. If you are not sure if the ADR method you are using is binding, be sure to ask the neutral this question.
  • There generally is less opportunity to find out about the other side's case with ADR than with litigation. ADR may not be effective if it takes place before the parties have sufficient information to resolve the dispute.
  • The neutral may charge a fee for his or her services.
  • If a dispute is not resolved through ADR, the parties may have to put time and money into both ADR and a lawsuit.
  • Lawsuits must be brought within specified periods of time, known as statutes of limitations. Parties must be careful not to let a statute of limitations run out while a dispute is in an ADR process.

Getting help with your case

Court staff cannot give legal advice.

If you have questions about handling a legal matter, please contact a lawyer. See Getting Legal Help for some resources.

Contact your local clerk's office about where to file your forms, or learn about how to e-file.

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