Alternatives to Taking Family to Court

July 26, 2016

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Few people relish the idea of taking a spouse, brother, sister, child, or parent to court to resolve a legal dispute. The time, cost, and contention can seem too much to bear. But what else can one do when a disagreement over property, financial assets, child custody, or some other essential matter cannot be settled through discussion and compromise? 

The family law attorneys with Edward F. Whipps & Associates offer help with three major alternative dispute resolution approaches. We briefly describe these below. Other options also exist, but all proceed from a basic agreement among the parties to the dispute that staying out of court and reaching a conclusion everyone can live with represent primary goals. 

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This simplest alternative to family court involves sitting down with an attorney and one or more subject matter experts to define the problem and weigh proposed solutions. Multiple consultations may be needed, and the disputing family members may each bring their own advisors and representatives. Decisions to accept or reject settlements rest entirely with the family members. 


A mediator is a specially trained, neutral third party who facilitates negotiations between family members. The mediator does not offer advice, limiting his or her role to 

  • Letting each person who is a party to the dispute give their version of events
  • Ensuring everyone understands what everyone else believes and wants
  • Asking questions to guide family members toward refining their claims and eliminating misunderstandings so they can compromise by giving up on some initial claims without sacrificing their most-valued outcomes
  • Highlighting points of agreement between parties in order to build a base for arriving at a final, mutually acceptable resolution
  • Preparing a final report to document what the family members have agreed to do 

A mediator does not decide a dispute in favor of one person or another. As with paid legal consultations, mediations can extend over several meetings and parties to the dispute can retain their own attorneys and experts


An arbitration works a lot like a trial, but going through arbitration spares much of the expense and acrimony of going through a hearing before a family court judge. Parties can agree to have their dispute arbitrated from the beginning, or they can choose arbitration after trying consultation and mediation. 

An arbitration officer will have expertise in the topic but no knowledge of the family members beyond what he or she reads in prehearing briefs and learns during the arbitration session. Both parties present their strongest case for receiving what they want, and the arbitrator issues a final, legally binding decision. That is, one person wins the dispute.

 Appealing an arbitration decision is difficult, so working closely with a family law attorney to make sure the most favorable evidence is presented at the hearing is essential. Another consideration is that witness and expert testimony can be limited during an arbitration, so this form of alternate dispute resolution may not be the best option for someone whose case rests on many other people’s personal statements. 

As a full-service family law firm, Edward F. Whipps & Associates can help with trials, paid legal consultations, mediations, and arbitrations. Schedule an appointment with an attorney today by calling (614) 461-6006 or using this contact form.





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