Alternatives to going to court

If you have a dispute with someone going to court can be an expensive, time-consuming and stressful process. There are other ways of dealing with many disputes. Find out how these alternatives to court work and when you may want to use them.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

If you have a dispute with 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 and include:

  • conciliation
  • mediation
  • neutral evaluation
  • adjudication
  • arbitration
  • 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 many 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:

Visit the Law Society of Northern Ireland website to find a solicitor near you.

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 available at the link below.

More useful links

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