Alternate Dispute Resolution
ALTERNATE DISPUTE RESOLUTION: ADR refers to specific processes designed to avoid a costly, protracted, and stressful trial in front of a Circuit Court Judge. While 95% of Michigan Family Law cases are the subject of settlement, a significant number of cases resolve through Mediation, and a smaller number through Arbitration. As a general rule, no Divorce case will proceed to Trial in front of a Judge without Mediation having been concluded. The finest advocates for clients have also served as a Mediator and an Arbitrator, which furnishes an invaluable perspective when representing a client in a Mediation or Arbitration proceeding. Mr. Harrington is a recognized and skilled Mediator and Arbitrator. Over 90% of his Mediation cases either settle at Mediation, or follow the pattern established at Mediation. Mr. Harrington has never had an Arbitration decision he issued overturned in the Trial Court or reversed in the Court of Appeals. James J. Harrington III has been the Chapter Author in a National legal publication regarding Alternate Dispute Resolution, Lexis Nexis Michigan Family Law Practice Guide from 2016 and each year thereafter to the present.
MEDIATION: A Mediator has no authority under Michigan law to make binding rulings, or to decide issues between the parties. A case may successfully settle in a first session, or after multiple mediation sessions. Settlement is a “process” and a case can only settle where (a) there has been a full disclosure of all pertinent financial information, and valuation of assets, and determination of the status of liabilities. Claims that assets were owned before the marriage, or received by way of Gift or Inheritance during the marriage are common in Mediations. A skilled Mediator can recommend “work arounds” and settlement which takes into account all of these issues. If the case ultimately settles at Mediation, then there is no formal Trial. Rather, Mediation provides an invaluable opportunity for a client to submit the history of the marriage, and their perception of the issues to the Mediator. One of the most important skill sets of a Mediator is the ability to “listen”. Likewise a Mediator must have in depth knowledge of controlling principles of Michigan law, and the latest cases impacting the issues in each dispute.
ARBITRATION: The State of Michigan has enacted a Law permitting Arbitration in Family Law cases. When an attorney acts as an Arbitrator, the attorney stands in the place of the Judge, and will make binding rulings on all issues present in a divorce case, including Property, Spousal/Child Support, Marital versus Separate property claims, custody, parenting time, attorney fees, and other issues. Advantages to Arbitration include: (a) finality — the Arbitrators rulings will, in most instances, conclude the litigation on the issues subject to arbitration; (b) Parties cannot select the particular Judge who will hear their case; however an Arbitrator will only be designated upon agreement of the attorneys; (c) an Arbitrator can streamline the admission of evidence, exhibits, and testimony and shorten the process and reduce costs to the parties; (d) Arbitration is a contract between the parties, and there can be considerable flexibility in the Arbitration process; (e) the narrow limits upon Appeals from arbitration decisions can have the effect of leveling financial disparities between the parties; (f) Arbitrators are paid by the parties at an agreed upon hourly rate. An arbitration will, in most cases, resolve much quicker than a protracted trial, which is to the financial benefit of the parties.