Out-of-Court Dispute Resolution in Family Law Cases

When people think of divorces, child custody, and other family disputes, their minds picture a court room trial. However, there are other popular options for resolving disputes without litigation. These out-of-court dispute resolution or alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods are responsible for settling more family cases than court proceedings.

Unlike litigation where a judge makes the decision, the agreements from most out-of-court settlements are voluntary from both parties. Therefore, their outcomes are more likely to be satisfying and long-lasting. Additionally, these alternative options are more amicable, less stressful, quicker to arrive at, and less expensive than court trials.

In case you’re getting a divorce, we’ll discuss the out-of-court alternatives you can employ. However, you may want to consult an attorney practicing family law West Chester PA, to guide you through the process.


Negotiation is a direct discussion between both parties in a family dispute in an effort to resolve their differences regarding the case. Negotiations can occur before filing a lawsuit or any time during the case, and it can happen anywhere. Also, couples can choose to negotiate themselves or with their attorney’s help.

If you’re divorcing, you can negotiate all terms such as child custody arrangement, child support, and spousal support with your spouse. When you settle, have your lawyers prepare a written agreement outlining all the terms. Finally, you’ll both sign the document and submit it in court for approval.

Collaborative Law

Like negotiation, collaborative law uses cooperative strategies to settle. However, it’s a more structured form of negotiation. It involves using a team of trained specialists such as lawyers, financial analysts, mental health professionals, and custody evaluators to resolve disputes.

The idea behind collaborative law is that when families work together with a team, they can arrive at creative and beneficial solutions.


Mediation focuses on settling issues through compromise and in the presence of a neutral third party, called a mediator. During mediation, the mediator meets privately and back and forth with each party, relaying their demands to each other. The mediator doesn’t offer any legal advice; instead, he guides them to find a settlement that’ll work for the family.


In arbitration, both parties hire an arbitrator who acts as a personal judge and makes decisions on their behalf. The arbitrator can be a judge or an attorney who practices family law in West Chester, PA, and has an arbitrator’s training.

The arbitration process is similar to that of a court. Each party will present their arguments and evidence, persuading the arbitrator that their position is right. However, unlike litigation, it’s private, less formal, and the participants can proceed at their own pace.

Parenting Coordination

Parenting coordination uses both mediation and arbitration techniques to resolve family issues relating to child custody. This method is useful for parents who experience conflict in their parenting schedule, irrespective of an existing court order.

During the process, the parenting coordinator, a neutral third-party, will guide the parents to decide, like in mediation. However, if they can’t reach an agreement themselves, he’ll decide on their behalf, like in arbitration.