Honestly, nobody really likes going to court. It’s messy, adversarial, and produces winners and losers. The production of outcomes where there are clear winners and losers isn’t always a bad thing, but in terms of family matters, it usually is. Having said that, wouldn’t it be great if there was some alternative? Some system that produced win-win outcomes and made it possible to avoid dragging the whole thing into the courtroom?

Would it surprise you to know that there is, in fact, such a solution? It’s called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which is a Lawyer-ese way of saying “Mediation.” While definitely not a “magic bullet” solution that can cure all your ills, it has a number of advantages over taking a case into the courtroom and having it heard by a judge. Among these advantages are:


Mediation typically costs 30-50% less than taking a case to court. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that mediators tend to work for a good deal less money than lawyers do, and you’ll only need a lawyer to look over the agreement once it has been reached. Also, by keeping the matter out of the courts proper, you’re circumventing the various fees associated with having to be in court, and those are things that everybody can feel good about.


A mediated solution tends to be a faster solution. There are no dockets to get on, no waiting required. The two parties in dispute simply agree on a time they can meet, sit down with a neutral third party and get to work. Once an agreement has been reached, it’s reviewed and filed. As long as both parties stick to the terms agreed to, there’s nothing else to be done.

“Everyone Wins” Outcomes

Because both parties in the dispute get to play a major role in crafting a solution that the two parties can live with, it promotes win-win solutions, rather than win-lose solutions. Everybody can walk away with something of what they want. The other benefit, directly related to this is the matter of control. In a mediated settlement, you control your own destiny, or at least you’ve got a measure of control over it. Once it goes before the judge, all bets are off. You’ve got no control over how the judge ultimately decides. Maybe that’s in your favor and maybe it isn’t. Either way, once you reach that point, there’s no going back and you get what you get.

The sad reality is that not all disputes can be settled in this manner. In some cases, there’s just too much bad blood between the parties, or the differences are just so vast that there’s no way to meet in the middle and have a reconciliation of any kind. In those cases, court is the best answer. Let the judge sort it out and live with what you get. Having said that though, when and wherever possible, a mediated solution generally works out better for everyone and does a lot less damage to your family. It’s hard to find fault with that.