Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

If it looks like you and your spouse are facing divorce, the court should be your last resort. Many couples do not realize that there are a variety of options available to them that can minimize harm and overall cost while also improving outcomes. At the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC, we specialize in using both tried-and-true and novel techniques to help you find a smooth resolution when you are looking to end your marriage.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a general term used to describe any means of resolving a dispute that avoids litigation. Typically, the parties involved will also be able to come to an agreement, a major factor that keeps divorce out of a courtroom. ADR proceedings are typically confidential, somewhat informal, and can be far less stressful and taxing than a court trial.

ADR is generally put to best use when a neutral third party–such as a mediator–is able to assist the disputing parties to come to an agreement. A wide range of techniques can be used to help parties come to a resolution by presenting creative solutions to fundamental problems. 

Specific methods of alternative dispute resolution include:

Mediation Collaborative Divorce Lawyer-Assisted Negotiation

However, there are many more ways to resolve a dispute that will ultimately end in divorce. Each option carries its own benefits and risks, but the end goal remains the same: to end a marriage in as balanced a manner as possible. 

DIY (The Kitchen Table Method)

  • Best for couples who had only a short marriage, without children or much shared property, and who can decide together on how their marital property should be divided
  • A lawyer is only needed to draft the final agreement if it is complex or very detailed
  • Having a lawyer draft the final documents and assist the parties through the finalization process can save time and money for the parties
  • Parties may incur costs for drafting or filing fees, but usually the most cost-effective option

Principled Negotiation

  • One or both spouses hire a lawyer to negotiate and draft the final agreement
  • Cost can include information gathering, limited negotiations, revisions, and attorney attendance at a final hearing
  • When only one spouse hires a lawyer, they will likely have an advantage over the spouse that does not, who has to gather and present information and negotiate on their own
  • A lawyer can be retained for further needs, regardless of settlement negotiations
  • Litigation is still a possibility
  • Possible budget:  $2,500 to $10,000 is a good budget to keep in mind


  • Parties retain a mediator, whether or not they retain their own attorney for personal advising
  • Spouses present data and the mediator works to resolve issues and help spouses to come to an agreement
  • Counsel can be involved as much or as little as the parties require - or not at all
  • Costs may be incurred for filing fees, drafting, negotiations, revisions and more
  • Parties control the process and pace while effectively addressing interpersonal issues
  • If the mediator is an attorney, neither party can retain them for individual legal counsel
  • Mediation depends on the spouses to provide relevant information, so there is the risk of limited disclosure

Collaborative Process

  • Parties agree to no litigation from the outset
  • Process is completely private, and all information stays in the hands of the parties and their lawyers (not filed with the Court in public documents)
  • Each individual hires a collaboratively trained lawyer to represent their interests and assist in gathering information
  • Jointly selected third party experts (i.e. financial neutrals, child-development experts, property appraisers, etc.) can be involved at various stages of the collaborative process
  • Costs can include filing fees, attorneys’ fees, negotiations, drafting, and any necessary third party experts
  • Because each party’s lawyer (and any necessary experts) are present during all negotiations, both individuals can feel secure in coming to a fair and equitable resolution
  • Collaborative lawyers cannot continue to represent their clients outside of the collaborative divorce process
  • If collaboration breaks down, either party can terminate the process and opt for litigation
  • Individuals may have greater incentive to settle, due to cost and time investment


  • An assigned arbitrator or panel of arbitrators conducts a hearing, takes evidence from each party, and makes the final decision on a couple’s divorce proceedings
  • Helpful for a couple that has reached a point where they cannot resolve a financial issue
  • Parties decide whether the arbitrator’s ruling is binding or non-binding; both parties may opt for litigation in the end
  • Arbitration offers a faster resolution than a court case would, but remains more adversarial than other ADR options
  • Arbitration cannot currently be used to grant or modify custody decisions in Ohio


  • One or both parties hire a lawyer to represent them in court, and one party files a Complaint for Divorce
  • The lawyer will conduct a discovery investigation, prepare for trial, and negotiate on their client’s behalf
  • Possible litigation budgets for representation from beginning to end in a divorce case can range from a conservative $10,000 or $15,000 to $50,000 and up, which includes filing fees, court costs, investigation, expert fees, attorney fees, preparation and attendance at trial, and more
  • Two attorneys are not required in a divorce case, however an unrepresented spouse must sign a waiver acknowledging that they have forfeited their right to an attorney
  • Litigation may be appropriate and necessary in cases that involve custody disputes, domestic violence, mental health or substance abuse issues, child abuse or endangerment, etc.
  • Litigation can be preferable to obtain temporary court orders, restraining orders, and / or to enforce strict deadlines
  • Litigation is contentious and there is the distinct possibility that one side could be underrepresented and their rights not defended, or that the appeal process could prolong the end of the matter

In the above examples, we aim to make it clear that every option that lies before a couple seeking a divorce will have a range of variables that will affect cost. Each potential method also carries its own risks and benefits, and each couple will need to seriously consider what they hold to be most important before settling on one option over another. This is the time that a consultation with an experienced Cleveland divorce attorney can make all the difference.

Why Choose Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Handling a divorce via litigation in a court is a rigid and procedural approach to something that is highly subjective. While a judge can do their best to understand the details of any given situation, they likely cannot fully understand the issues that may concern you most. There are also many variations between courtrooms and local procedures that could negatively affect the outcome for one or both parties. On the other hand, when you choose a method of ADR, you are able to work with an experienced collaborative divorce lawyer or child custody attorney who can take the time to know your situation and offer creative, unique solutions to points of dispute.

The financial effects of divorce are always a concern for a divorcing couple, and most ADR options keep investments of time and money to a minimum. Since the various ADR processes tend not to be adversarial, spouses and children can be shielded from conflict and both parties can enjoy more permanent and satisfying outcomes. ADR also is more likely to result in better personal relationships that can allow for more cordial co-parenting. For expedited, confidential, and flexible divorce agreements that are tailor-made to fit your family, alternative dispute resolution is a must.

To learn more and discuss your case with experienced divorce lawyers in Cleveland, reach out to the team at the Law Offices Of Cara L. Santosuosso, LLC – we’re ready to help you take control of your situation. Contact us today!