By G. Timothy Leighton

January 13, 2023 — Mediation and arbitration are two types of alternative dispute resolution. This means that the disputing parties meet privately with a neutral third party (mediator or arbitrator) to resolve issues with little or no court involvement. Following the mediation or arbitration session, the terms of the agreement between the parties are incorporated into a document which both parties sign.

The main benefits of alternative dispute resolution most importantly are that the people themselves maintain some control of the process and outcome, and also that the process is significantly less expensive and time-consuming than a lawsuit. Examples of disputes that may be resolved by mediation or arbitration are divorce and child custody issues, contract disputes, and trust and estate disputes involving a trustee or executor. It is important to remember that although the details and terms of a divorce can be worked through during mediation, the parties are still required to file the appropriate paperwork with the court in order for the marriage to be legally dissolved. A judge will still review the end result to determine that it comports with applicable law. However, the time and costs involved in the court proceedings are drastically lower when the parties have already informally worked out the details.

There are differences between mediation and arbitration. A mediator works to help the parties understand each other’s positions and priorities and come to a mutually beneficial agreement. The parties typically meet initially as a group with the mediator. Then the mediator will usually meet privately with each party separately, often shuttling back and forth several times.

Arbitration is more formal. The arbitrator listens to both sides and ultimately decides which party prevails, similar to a lawsuit. In private arbitration, the arbitrator might strive to help the parties settle informally between themselves. However, in court-appointed arbitration, the arbitration panel after hearing from both sides in a somewhat formal proceeding determines the official outcome.

Attorney Tim Leighton has experience serving as both mediator and arbitrator in McLean County, Illinois and other jurisdictions. Please contact us if you think alternative dispute resolution may be the right choice for you.

Important note: This information is designed to provide a general overview with regard to the subject matter covered. The author and publisher and host are not providing legal, accounting, or specific advice to your situation. You should consult with the professional advisors of your choice for specific advice.