Weighing Your Options: When Is Alternative Dispute Resolution Appropriate In Family Law?

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Weighing Your Options: When Is Alternative Dispute Resolution Appropriate In Family Law?

Below are some advantages and disadvantages to alternative dispute resolution in divorce and family law matters:


Parties can participate in alternative dispute resolution prior to filing. This allows both sides to ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of their positions. Especially in the context of dissolution where child custody and support are at issue, alternative dispute resolutions may help the parties’ to avoid increased animosity that sometimes results in court proceedings.

Participating in mediation or arbitration may result in the parties forgoing proceedings in a formal court setting altogether. A skilled mediator may be able to suggest alternatives and achieve a settlement when it was otherwise thought impossible.

The financial costs to the parties may also be reduced if they are able to reach a settlement. Overall, the parties to the alternative dispute resolution have more control over the pace and nature of their issues than they might be afforded in the court system.


Agreements reached by the parties may not always be binding. Therefore, the parties may expend a great deal of time and resources and still walk away without their issues settled.

Because the parties are allowed to dictate the pace at which these resolutions go on, it could be a lengthy amount of time before a final decision is reached. Additionally, if the parties are so far apart in their settlement goals, alternative dispute resolution may not be fruitful.

There are also concerns as to whether parties who are on lesser ground as far as finances, education or sophistication will be more easily manipulated into unfair settlements than if the parties participated in formal court proceedings.

Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law is a growing way to provide alternative dispute resolution to parties. Collaborative Family Law provides a diverse group of independent professionals, including attorneys, financial advisors, and mental health professionals, who can help work together to try and resolve a case. Co-parenting professionals can also be on hand to deal with the emotional and practical aspects of custody and shared parenting.

In Missouri, there is an organization called the Missouri Collaborative Institute. In Illinois, there is the South Central Illinois Collaborative Family Law Association. The advantages and disadvantages to collaborative family law are roughly the same as mediation.


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