Resolving a dispute - alternatives to going to court
If you have a dispute with someone going to court to resolve it can be an expensive, time-consuming and stressful process. And in some cases can result in an unsatisfactory experience. There are other ways of dealing with many disputes; find out how these alternatives to court work and when it is appropriate to use them.
Alternative dispute resolution
If you have a dispute with, for example, your partner, neighbour, landlord, bank or a public body there are ways to sort it out without going to court. These alternatives are known as alternative dispute resolution or ADR.
- neutral evaluation
- using ombudsmen and other regulatory bodies
Reasons for using ADR
ADR schemes are not meant to replace the courts in all cases but there are some advantages to using ADR instead of going to court. ADR can:
- solve your problem faster
- cost less
- avoid the stress of going to court
- help preserve your relationship with the other party
- be confidential
- be flexible and provide a range of outcomes
- help achieve mutual agreement
When ADR may not be suitable
Although ADR has considerable benefits there are some risks and costs. In addition, in some situations ADR may not be suitable:
- some types of dispute, for example domestic abuse
- issues needing urgent court action, such as to prevent you losing your home
- the outcome needs to be legally binding
- the other party is unwilling to take part in ADR
Be realistic about what can be achieved through ADR.
Getting independent advice
Independent advice can help you make an informed decision about which ADR method might suit best or whether to enter into an ADR process at all.
Independent advice can also be important before deciding whether to accept a solution agreed through an ADR process such as conciliation or mediation.
You can get independent advice from various sources, for example:
- a solicitor
- an independent advice centre
- a local Citizens Advice bureau
- Advice NI (contacts section)
- Citizens Advice Northern Ireland (contacts section)
Alternatives to court in Northern Ireland booklet
You can find more information and a list of helpful organisations in the ‘Alternatives to Court in Northern Ireland’ booklet developed by the Northern Ireland Ombudsman, the Law Centre (NI) and Queen's University Belfast.