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Comparing Florida Alternative Dispute Resolution Proceedings

You may be generally aware that there are methods other than a full trial for resolving legal disputes, but there’s more to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) than just avoiding court. Arbitration and mediation are two types of Florida ADR proceedings available to settle a range of legal matters, but they are very different and aren’t appropriate in every situation. A qualified and certified mediator and arbitrator can answer specific questions about the benefits of ADR for your specific circumstances, and some general information about how each type of proceeding may help you resolve your legal dispute as an alternative to a trial.

Basic Definitions

The two primary types of ADR in Florida are:

  • Arbitration: In an arbitration proceeding, you and the other party are given the opportunity to present your evidence and arguments on the dispute in a court-style setting. The arbitrator hears both sides and then makes a decision on all outstanding issues.
  • Mediation: This type of ADR offers a means for parties to discuss their dispute and use compromise to resolve their disagreement. The proceeding is more of a discussion among you, the other party, and a neutral arbitrator. The arbitrator’s job is to encourage open communication and help sort out the issues that are preventing resolution. If successful, the process concludes by you and the other party signing an agreement.

How Do the Two Measure Up?

There are different reasons you might choose to resolve your matter through ADR:

  • Mediation offers a way to resolve your differences out of court, in a relaxed proceeding that’s guided toward compromise by the neutral mediator. The process is less time consuming and expensive, and the end result is an agreement that’s legally enforceable if either party breaches its terms.
  • Arbitration is a more formal proceeding, but still less costly than a full trial. The parties present their evidence and testimony to the arbitrator, enabling the other side to detect strengths and weaknesses – which often can lead to settlement in the matter.

You may also be required to proceed to ADR under certain circumstances.

  • In Florida, there are two types of arbitration. Non-binding arbitration may be ordered by the court in certain cases; however, you can move to set aside the findings of the proceeding and opt for a full court trial. In a voluntary binding arbitration, you and the other party agree to resolve your matter and accept the findings of the arbitrator. The determination is final and only appealable under limited circumstances.
  • You may be ordered by the court to go through mediation proceedings if the other party makes the request. However, court-ordered mediation is not available for some disputes.
  • If you’ve signed a contract to use ADR for resolving disputes instead of going to court, you must abide by the terms of the agreement.

Alternative dispute resolution may be an option if you’re looking for ways to resolve a dispute without going to a full trial, but it’s important to understand both mediation and arbitration before taking action. Even though you may be able to opt for ADR proceedings doesn’t mean you should, and only a Florida arbitration and mediation lawyer can advise you on what’s best for your situation. If you have questions about the different ADR proceedings, please contact Mitchell L. Feldman at the Tampa office of Feldman Mediation & Arbitration Services. Mitchell Feldman has 20 plus years of experience in representing clients in ADR proceedings and now, as a certified mediator and arbitrator, is helping people to resolve their legal disputes outside of the courtroom, through Mediation and Arbirtration.

Resource:

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099/0044/0044.html

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