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ADR Trends

Although some predicted that informal dispute resolution procedures would be second-class justice for the poor, large corporations have recently embraced settlement processes, including arbitration, advisory hearings, such as the mini-trial and, more recently, mediation.

Corporate counsel explain their interests not only in terms of savings achieved in money and time but also in terms of the increased opportunity corporate executives have to make decisions based on sound business principals rather than legal standards. Further, mediation in a broad array of cases and parties has been institutionalized in multi-door courthouses, which offer an expanded range of court services.

Another development has been the growing support for mediation of issues related to divorce, particularly child custody disputes. Justified by some as a move to alleviate caseloads or reduce parties' costs, mediation of these disputes appears, in fact, has won legal system support even in the absence of documented caseload gains or cost effectiveness.

Like community-wide civil rights disputes, the custody dispute has repercussions for children and thereby society as a whole, not just court caseloads and parties' expenses, when settlements are not reached. Settlement also offers the prospect of more workable solutions than those imposed by court

During the past decades, ADR has evolved from a term of art into a civil movement that has directly impacted on how virtually every state and federal court in the nation perceives its function in the disposition of pending caseloads. Court systems, faced with growing civil backlogs and limited judicial and staff resources, have investigated, developed and implemented non-judicial methods of case disposition, such as mediation and arbitration, to help relieve congested dockets.

These alternatives permit individuals to shape the final resolution of their conflict and to avoid the psychological trauma, the financial costs, and the time delay associated with court procedures. As we have seen through the Delaware Superior Court's the arbitration, mediation, and neutral assessment process, the alternative process increases efficiency in resolving disputes by achieving an early disposition of cases with resultant savings in time and costs to the litigants and to the court, but without sacrificing the quality of justice rendered.

Furthermore, it is well argued that disputants who participate directly in creating agreements that resolve their disputes are generally more satisfied with the outcome than disputants who become subject to the terms of a jury verdict or court order.