Alternative dispute resolution or ADR is a process which gives parties an option to settle their family law dispute through an ADR covered process such as mediation. In essence, parties have the option to settle a matter without the direct involvement of the court. In fact, when it comes to family law issues and disputes, ADR is encouraged.

One of the reasons for encouraging ADR over court involvement is that parties are making a decision and coming to an agreement between themselves on issues such as child custody arrangement, parenting time and other issues instead of a family law judge making the decision for them.

Many find ADR a rewarding experience. However, even though the court is not directly involved, the court is required to enter an order and any order drafted under a ADR process is generally what the parties involved in the process have already agreed to.

A few important points to keep in mind about ADR such as mediation between parties is that it is voluntary and both parties must be open to participating in it. In fact, under Michigan Court Rules a court can refer family law matters to mediation. In many cases parties have already agreed to mediate the matter or one party has made the motion to do so. Sometimes a court itself may order parties to mediate the matter. In such a case mediation is mandatory.

Mediation involves a neutral person referred to as the mediator who facilitates the mediation. Any agreement that the parties reach during mediation is typically put into writing by the mediator. Both parties can then have the written agreement reviewed by an attorney to ensure that it reflects what they want, and understand what it all means. Once both parties mutually agree to the terms, the agreement can be sent to the court for signature and becomes the final order. All matters discussed during mediation are confidential.

For those interested in resolving their family law issues through mediation or who have been court ordered to participate in mediation may find it helpful to speak with an attorney familiar with mediation in family law cases.

Source: Michigan Courts, “Handbooks: Friend of the Court Handbook – Model,” pages 10-11 Accessed Jan. 12, 2015