Role of a Mediator v. Role of Arbitrator

Alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) provides alternatives to formal legal proceedings such as trials. Resolutions through ADR are often more efficient, less costly and provides more privacy than traditional litigation.  ADR can encompass mediation and arbitration. However, the role of a mediator differs greatly from the role of an arbitrator in resolving disputes.

Mediators do not issue orders or make determinations. They help parties reach an agreement by communicating with both sides in order to develop viable options for resolution. Although each mediator differs, the parties usually meet together with the mediator to informally discuss the matter and set a framework for how mediation will proceed and the scope of what both parties want to address in mediation. It is then common for the mediator to go back and forth between the parties, attempting to find common ground for resolution. The main focus of the mediator is having the parties work together toward a mutually beneficial settlement. Mediation ends when either a settlement is reached or when the parties determine that they cannot come to a resolution.

Arbitrators have a more formal role than mediators and have the authority to decide the issues in dispute between the parties. Arbitrators decisions closely resemble the decisions of a judge.  Arbitration is conducted in lieu of a trial and is a more formal proceeding that mediation. The arbitrator’s function is to render a decision on the issues. During arbitration, both parties are given the opportunity to present their case to the arbitrator, which can include the introduction of evidence and testimony of the parties and/or witnesses. The arbitrator than issues an arbitration award, which can only be contested under certain circumstances. Arbitration ends when the arbitration award is finalized. Due to the arbitrators role as decision maker, the arbitrator is precluded from engaging in settlement discussions with the parties.

For questions regarding alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, arbitration or any other family law related issue, please contact the attorneys of Ulrichsen Rosen & Freed LLC. Our firm is focused exclusively on the practice of family law and serves clients throughout New Jersey including clients residing in Mercer County, Somerset County, Hunterdon County, Burlington County and Middlesex County.