What is commonly referred to as alternative dispute resolution in other states is known as complementary dispute resolution in New Jersey. This difference in legal terminology is due to the fact that the New Jersey courts view dispute resolution as a complement to trial proceedings rather than an alternative to them.
Complementary dispute resolution proceedings involve several different types. The most commonly utilized include settlement hearings, arbitration and mediation. In a settlement proceeding, the parties will appear before a neutral third party who will suggest a possible settlement to resolve the dispute. Mediators will try to assist the parties by facilitating communication between them, but have no power to render a decision. In arbitration, the parties can present their sides to a neutral third party who then will issue a decision which may or may not be binding, depending upon the circumstances.
The goals of complementary dispute resolution are several. The use of such programs is intended to facilitate settlements while reducing the overall costs for the parties. The programs are also designed to protect the rights of all those involved while remaining fair and neutral and are intended to be accessible to all parties without favoring one over the other. Complementary dispute resolution proceedings are available in several areas, including municipal, family, equity, probation and civil cases.
Choosing to go through a dispute resolution procedure may help a litigant avoid the higher expenses associated with extended litigation. People who choose such a procedure are able to be represented by their attorney throughout the proceeding so they can make certain their interests are protected. While dispute resolution may not make sense in all cases, it is often a very successful way to resolve legal disputes while arriving at settlements that are intended to be fair to the parties.
Source: New Jersey Courts, "Complementary Dispute Resolution", November 17, 2014