It’s normal for relationships to have their share of ups and downs. Even people who are good friends, or loving members of a family, or are genuinely considerate neighbors can come to unforeseen issues that can be sources of dispute for them. And sometimes, even though everyone involved might want to work things out peacefully, there are things that can only be worked out with a third party.
On the other hand, not every dispute requires a third party which is as serious as going to trial court. So what options are available to those people who want to work things out peacefully without going to court?
One option that is available to disputing parties is the option to work things out on all levels. With a counselor you will probably explore things like communication issues and emotional issues that are contributing to the problems underlying the dispute. Counseling can be done through a therapist, counselor, coach, psychologist, or even a psychiatrist. Any agreements you make through a therapist will probably not have any legal weight to them, since counselors don’t normally have any legal authority.
Mediation is one step closer to the feel of a court, compared to counseling. A mediator may or may not insist that final agreements be according to the letter of the law. The reason that things don’t necessarily need to keep to the letter of the law in mediation is because a mediation agreement is something that is agreed upon by the disputing parties, and not something that is decided for them. In other words the mediator has not status of a judge, and the mediated parties retain all of the decision making power. Unless the disputing parties agree on an agreement and sign on the bottom lines, there is no agreement to uphold.
Arbitration is another form of alternative dispute resolution, in that it is an alternative to litigation, but it very much resembles the style of court. Disputing parties are allowed to present their arguments, evidence, and claims to the arbitrator or arbitration panel, and then the arbitration panel makes a final decision as to who the winner of the dispute is. Whereas counseling and mediation are cooperative efforts for disputing parties to work out their disputes in a mutually beneficial and mutually agreeable way, arbitration is competitive with a clear winner and a clear loser.
Factors to consider when deciding between the various types of dispute resolution include: monetary costs, convenience, keeping peace after the dispute is decided, and whether you believe that your arguments will merit you winning the dispute.