When a dispute arises, family lawyers have a number of different resolution methods available to help you resolve it. From negotiation to mediation to arbitration to litigation, it’s great to have options but it can be overwhelming to choose. Here are some factors to consider:

•1) How quickly does the issue need to be resolved?

Negotiation does not have a timeline, meaning that it may be a lengthy or quick process. Litigation comes with set timelines, however, the process can be quite lengthy. Mediation may be a little quicker, with arbitration and mediation-arbitration hybrids possible also being quicker.

•2) How final is the outcome?

While they can be expensive and drag matters on longer, court decisions may be appealable on certain grounds. Appealing mediation and arbitration is a more difficult process and not available under many circumstances.

•3) How much can you afford to pay?

Negotiation can be cost-efficient if a resolution is quick, however, the longer and more complex, the higher the price tag. While the hourly rate of a mediator or arbitrator may seem high, the cost may be sufficiently less than a drawn-out litigation process. Like most areas of the law, it is a real challenge to attempt to estimate what the costs of resolving a dispute (regardless of the method) will be. Factors such as the time involved, decisiveness of the parties and complexity of the matter cause significant cost variation.

•4) Do you want to pick your decision-maker?

With mediation and arbitration, the parties make a choice of who they would like to conduct the session. This can be based on experience with a specific issue, reputation, cost-effectiveness or other factors. This allows you to insure your mediator or arbitrator is familiar and experienced in family law. With litigation, you have no control over the judge who hears your matter.

•5) What kind of relationship are you hoping to have with the other party when the dispute has been resolved?

Mediation can be a good choice when your hope is to have a positive relationship afterward. The focus is on finding a mutually-agreeable solution and this may be particularly important where the parties have to co-parent in the future. Arbitration can be more adversarial and thus may breed more hostility between the parties. Litigation is the most adversarial option, however, it certainly is possible for parties to litigate an issue and maintain a positive relationship.

Selecting the right method of dispute resolution can be complex. A family lawyer will have experience making this important assessment and can ensure that you arrive at the method that is best suited to your circumstances and your desired outcome.

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