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Law Talk: Legally resolving conflict

Community Legal Services | News | September 8th, 2008



People get involved in many types of disputes, however instead of heading straight to court more and more people are turning to alternative ways of resolving their conflicts. These alternative ways of resolving conflict has a name, Alternative Dispute Resolution, but what is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR, is the term used to describe a variety of ways of dealing with disputes, and you can usually choose the best method for dealing with your particular situation. Over the next few columns we will describe the basics of ADR, before focusing on ADR in specific situations.

There are three commonly used methods of resolving disputes without going to court:

Mutual Agreement
People who disagree can often get together to discuss the problem and reach a mutual agreement. When people sort out a problem themselves, they can work out a solution that best meets their own needs and interests. This form of ADR is negotiation. Solving disputes through negotiation is a part of everyday life. For instance, in a situation where a teenager asks their parents for the car keys, after some discussion they reach an agreement on conditions for using the car and when to return home. This is an example of negotiation.

Mediation
Mediation is another way for people to settle disputes or lawsuits outside of court. In mediation, a neutral third party - the mediator - helps the disputing parties look for a solution that works for them. Mediators, unlike judges, do not decide cases or impose settlements. The mediator's role is to help the people involved in a dispute to communicate and negotiate with each other in a constructive manner, to gain a better understanding of the interests of all parties, and to find a resolution based on common understanding and mutual agreement.

The purpose of mediation is not to determine who wins and who loses, but to develop creative solutions to disputes in a way that is not possible at a trial.

Arbitration
When people in a dispute cannot resolve the dispute themselves, either through face-to-face negotiation or with the assistance of a mediator, they can agree to refer the matter to arbitration. In arbitration, a neutral person or panel of people hears the facts and issues and makes a decision. Arbitrators are often people who are experts in a specific area of the law or a particular industry, especially in cases where the decision-maker needs to be knowledgeable about a particular subject matter or business practice

The arbitrator makes a decision based on the facts, any contract between the people, and the applicable laws. The arbitrator will explain how the decision was reached. If the applicable law allows, you can decide yourself in advance whether the arbitrator's decision will be final and binding or whether it should be subject to review by a court if a party disagrees with the decision.

This column provides legal information only. If you need legal advice please contact a lawyer, community legal clinic or the Lawyer Referral Service at 1-900-565-4LRS (a $6.00 charge will apply). Fanshawe College students may book an appointment to attend our outreach clinic at the college. Please call us at 519-661-3352 with any inquires or to book an appointment.
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