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In most divorce cases, when two parties are at odds in a legal matter, it may be expected that a trial is the best option for resolving the issue. However, in many cases, alternative dispute resolution methods work well. There are several different options, and Pennsylvania residents may benefit from learning about the different possibilities.

The first option that is likely the most familiar is mediation. This works well when both parties are amenable to working out the issues with a neutral third party and are motivated toward achieving a fair result. The outcome is left in control of the two sides. One of the benefits of this form of resolution is the mediator can help the two sides communicate without excess emotional influence. Mediation may not work when there is a history of animosity or abuse between the parties.

Arbitration is another option. An arbitrator weighs the arguments and evidence presented by the parties and makes the final determination. A binding arbitration is final, meaning the parties cannot thereafter request a trial or appeal the decision. A non-binding arbitration provides for the right for either party to request a trial after the arbitrator has made a decision. However, the party that requests a trial may be subject to penalties if that party also loses at trial.

Other methods that may be used in Pennsylvania civil cases are evaluations by a neutral party and settlement conferences. The conferences may be mandatory and are used close to a trial date in an effort to find an agreeable settlement while discussing the strengths and shortcomings of the case, which may negate the need for a trial. While not every case can be settled using alternative dispute resolution methods, an experienced lawyer can weigh the merits of one’s case and discuss the best options available for a favorable outcome. 

Source: courts.ca.gov, “ADR Types & Benefits”, Accessed on Sept. 17, 2017