Alternative Dispute Resolution

Most people decide to settle their issues instead of going to trial. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) often helps the parties reach a settlement that is more acceptable to both parties. The most common forms of ADR are mediation and arbitration.

Local Family Law Rules 16(a) require almost all family law cases to be subject to a mandatory ADR before proceeding to trial. Relocation of a child and child support modification are two of the notable exceptions to this rule. 

In many contested divorce cases, if the parties are unable to reach a settlement on one or more of the issues, then the parties might schedule a mediation. At the medication, a divorce mediator will meet with each side, typically in separate rooms, to discuss the issues.

The mediator can either help you solve some of the issues or all of the issues, although the mediator has no power to make the parties agree or decide any issue in the case.

Washington ADR Divorce Attorney in Seattle

If you are interested in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) including either mediation or arbitration then contact the Seattle family law attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson. Our lawyers work hard to help our clients settle their cases without the expense or aggravation of a trial by using ADR. Because so many divorce and family law cases are settled during ADR, it is important that your attorney can effectively navigate this part of the process. 

The family law attorneys at Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson represent clients throughout King County and the Snohomish County including the nearby communities of Lynnwood, Woodinville, Edmonds, Ballard, Medina, Redmond, Renton, Mountlake Terrace, Lake Forest Park, Shoreline, Bothell, North Seattle, Greenwood, Greenlake, Tukwila, Burien, Normandy Park, Kent, North Bend, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Kirkland, Carnation, Issaquah, Sammamish, Vashon Island, and Maury Island.

We also represent clients in Snohomish County to the north and Pierce County to the south. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call (206) 712-2756 to schedule a consultation.


Back to top

Information Center


Back to top

What is Mediation in a Family Law or Divorce Case?

Mediation is a confidential, voluntary, non-binding process that uses a neutral third party to guide parties toward a mutually beneficial resolution of their disagreement. Resolutions are created to suit both parties and may include an agreement not available through the court system.

The mediator does not impose his or her will or judgment on the parties but helps them reach an agreement by identifying issues, exploring possible bases for agreement, and weighing the consequences of not settling.


Back to top

What Happens in Divorce Mediation?

Mediation is another avenue for divorcing couples who wish to avoid trial. A third-party unbiased mediator will help you and your ex-spouse reach a fair solution that works for both of you. The point of the mediator is to help facilitate communication and avoid any trivial arguing. Essentially, they create a safe place to negotiate for you and your ex-spouse. 

During the meeting, the mediator will ensure:

  • Both parties have a chance to be heard
  • They show respect for one another and their feelings
  • Willing to explore alternative solutions to resolve any issues 

The mediator will NOT do any of the following:

  • Provide legal advice
  • Decide who the “right” party is
  • Make the decisions for you and your ex-spouse

During mediation, you, your ex-spouse, and the mediator will agree on a solution for all divorce-related issues. These issues can include: 

  • How assets will be separated
  • Debt allocation
  • Spousal support
  • Parenting plans
  • Child support
  • Any other issue that must be resolved

Back to top

What is Arbitration in a Family Law or Divorce Case?

Another form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is arbitration. During arbitration, a neutral third party is selected to hear both sides of the case and issue a decision or award. In many ways, an arbitration proceeding is similar to a regular court trial.

The main difference between arbitration and a trial in court is that the parties agree in advance whether the arbitration will be binding or non-binding. If the parties agree to binding arbitration, then the decision or award is final, with the exception of a parenting plan, as a judge must find that the plan is in the best interest of a child, and thus retains the power to modify even a binding arbitration decision. 

If one party is dissatisfied with a non-binding decision by an arbitrator, that party can appeal the result by requesting a trial (often called the "request for trial de novo”). 

The downside of appealing an arbitrator’s decision is that if the trial fails to improve the outcome at trial, then that party will be required to pay the other party’s costs and reasonable attorney's fees incurred after the filing of the appeal. This rule on attorney fees is intended to encourage the parties to accept the arbitrator's decision as final.


Back to top

 Is Mediation Required Before Divorce in Washington?

According to Washington state law, divorcing parties are not required to mediate before they dissolve their marriage. However, some Washington counties do have local rules that require mediation in most types of family law cases including King County and Snohomish County.

Both counties require alternative dispute resolution (ADR) before divorce proceedings. The requirement is waivable and to obtain the waiver one party must request it by motion. If the motion is granted, that person will receive a court order specifically granting the waiver. Usually, ADR is only waived in King County and Snohomish County if there is a history of domestic violence and the volatile relationship between the two parties could interfere during mediation or ADR.


Back to top

Additional Resources

Dispute Resolution American Bar Association – Visit the American Bar Association (ABA) page to learn about dispute resolution. The ABA’s mission is to increase public understanding of and respect for the rule of law, the legal process, and the role of the legal profession at home and throughout the world. The dispute resolution webpage describes what it is and what are the different types of dispute resolution processes. 

ADR Divorce Association for Conflict Resolution – The mission of Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) is to enhance the practice and public understanding of conflict resolution. Visit the website to view the organization’s upcoming events and resource center.


Back to top

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Divorce Attorney in WA

If you and your spouse cannot agree on issues in your divorce, our skilled Washington alternative dispute resolution attorneys can advise you of all of your ADR options in Florida. Divorce, in most situations, is conflicting. We work hard to help our clients resolve family law issues that arise in a divorce without the necessity of litigation, if possible.

Law Offices of Shana E. Thompson practices in Seattle, Washington. Our family law attorneys also represent clients in King County and the Snohomish County including the surrounding areas of Lynnwood, Woodinville, Edmonds, Ballard, Medina, Redmond, and Renton. Call us today at (206) 712-2756 to schedule your first consultation.


Back to top