A Brief Introduction to Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is an alternative to litigation that may allow parties to settle disputes without necessitating adjudication by a Court.  The most common forms of ADR include mediation and arbitration.  In meditation, a neutral third party serves as a “mediator” and tries to facilitate negotiation between the parties to reach a settlement agreement on their own.  The agreement reached by the parties will then be submitted to the Court to be approved as an order.  Mediation may be appropriate for parties who have a relationship that may want to be preserved such as family members or neighbors.  This form of ADR is particularly effective where emotions may be running high and serve as a roadblock to an amicable resolution.  The mediator allows for negotiations to go smoother and helps both sides find common ground to reach an agreement.   Conversely, in arbitration, a neutral third party called an “arbitrator” hears arguments and evidence from both sides before deciding the outcome of the dispute on their own.  Arbitration can be binding or nonbinding.  An arbitrator’s decision in binding arbitration is generally final and non-appealable as the parties have previously waived their right to trial.  If the arbitration is nonbinding, however, the parties can proceed to trial if they are not satisfied with arbitrator’s decision.  Arbitration is most effective in commercial cases.  Generally, the arbitrator will be an expert in the particular field of the dispute or a lawyer who has experience in the particular field.  The rules of evidence in an arbitration are usually more relaxed, and some parties find arbitration appealing if they want to avoid the formality, time, and expense of litigation.

In South Carolina, as of June 1, 2013, cases filed in South Carolina Circuit Courts for civil suits or South Carolina Family Law Courts are subject to mandatory ADR in the following counties: Aiken, Allendale, Anderson, Bamberg, Barnwell, Beaufort, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Cherokee, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Greenville, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Kershaw, Lee, Lexington, Marion, Oconee, Orangeburg, Pickens, Richland, Spartenburg, Sumter, Union, Williamsburg, and York.  

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