Resolving Your Dispute Out of Court FAQs

Resolving Your Dispute Out of Court - Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Where can I find ADR programs in my court?

A: You can contact your court and find out about what programs are available. Your court may have an ADR coordinator who can answer your questions.  Also, most courts’ websites have information on their ADR programs. For more information about your superior court's ADR programs for civil cases.

Q: I am having a dispute with my lawyer about her fees and we have not been able to resolve it. Can I get help?

A: Yes.  The State Bar of California has an arbitration program to help resolve fee disputes between lawyers and their clients. The program is informal, low-cost, and mandatory for a lawyer if a client requests it. You can contact your local bar association for help with the arbitration. In some counties, mediation of disputes about attorney fees is also available. To learn more about fee arbitration, visit the State Bar of California website.

Q: How do I know if my type of dispute is good for mediation or some other type of ADR?

A: Some cases lend themselves to ADR and others do not.  To find out more about ADR processes, and when they may or may not be appropriate.

Q: Can I try ADR before I file a case in court?

A: Yes. In fact, if you can avoid having to file a court case altogether, you will be saving yourself time and money, and a lot of stress that comes with going to court. But, remember that even if you cannot resolve your dispute before you file a case in court, you can still continue to use ADR to work on a settlement after the court case begins.

Q: If I try mediation, do I lose my right to go to court?

A: No. If you try to mediate your case and you are not able to reach an agreement, you still have the right to take your case in front of a judge. Just make sure that, while you are going through the mediation process, you do not miss any deadlines that may come up in your court case.

Q: My trial is a week away. Is it too late to try ADR?

A: No. It is never too late to try to resolve your dispute. The advantages of ADR are still present, no matter how close to the trial you resolve your dispute. In addition to saving you time and money by avoiding a trial, you can still have more control over the final resolution and agreement, and can create an agreement that addresses your concerns better than what a court can do.

Q: I went through arbitration and I am not satisfied with the arbitrator’s decision. Can I still go to court in front of a judge?

A: It depends.  If you agreed to nonbinding arbitration, and you are not satisfied with the arbitrator’s decision, you have the right to ask for a trial and have your case decided by a judge (or jury).

If you agreed to binding arbitration, you waived your right to a trial and to take your case in front of a judge. You agreed to be bound by whatever decision the arbitrator makes.

Q: What are community mediation programs?

A: Community mediation programs can help people with issues like: disputes involving neighbors, landlords and tenants, merchants/contractors and consumers, businesses, family members, co-workers, youth, schools, homeowner associations, seniors and more.

In addition to mediation services, community mediation programs often also offer training in mediation skills, communication techniques and other tools for dealing with conflict. Many programs have services focused on schools including training for youth, teachers and parents, and supporting school-based peer-mediation programs. Community mediation centers also offer group meeting facilitation services for community forums, non-profit organizations and other groups.

Find a community mediation program in your area.

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