Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) describes processes of settling disputes by means other than civil litigation (taking a case to court). ADR typically includes early neutral evaluation, negotiation, conciliation, mediation, and arbitration.
As burgeoning court queues, rising costs of litigation, and time delays continue to plague litigants, more states have begun experimenting with ADR programs. Some of these programs are voluntary; others are mandatory.
While the two most common forms of ADR are arbitration and mediation, negotiation is almost always attempted first to resolve a dispute. It is the preeminent mode of dispute resolution. Negotiation allows the parties to meet in order to settle a dispute. The main advantage of this form of dispute settlement is that it allows the parties themselves to control the process and the solution.
Mediation provides parties in a dispute an opportunity to settle informally with the assistance of a trained third party.
Arbitration is a more formal method of settlement which includes a decision by the arbitrator.