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Alternative dispute resolution can be defined as any method of dispute resolution other than traditional litigation. Mediation is the form of ADR lay people are most familiar with, but other forms include informal negotiation, early intervention mediation, collaborative law, neutral fact finding, summary jury trial, mini-trial and arbitration. Some individuals believe arbitration and mediation are one and the same, but that is incorrect. Mediation is a process where a 3rd party neutral acts to facilitate resolving a dispute between two or more parties. Mediation is outlined in the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code Under Chapter 154.023. It is a voluntary process wherein the parties to the dispute determine whether they resolve the dispute and how, if there is to be resolution at all. The mediator is not permitted to impose his/her judgment on the parties to force a settlement. Arbitration is broken into two forms: binding and non-binding. Non-binding arbitration is a forum where parties and their attorneys present their respective positions before an impartial third party who renders an award. If the parties agree to binding arbitration in advance, the award is binding and enforceable just as a contract. Texas trial courts have broad discretion in ordering parties to attend mediation, and in some cases local rules require parties attempt to mediate before they are granted a trial setting. Statistics tell us that over 90% of cases settle before trial. Settlement may result through informal processes, mediation, and even as a result of litigation fatigue on the eve of trial. While the benefits to alternative dispute resolution are many, mediation and arbitration are not necessarily the answer for all disputes. Sometimes dispute resolution requires trial, and our Constitution thankfully gives citizens this right.

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