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Alternative Dispute Resolution


ADR is an acronym for “Alternative Dispute Resolution”. ADR programs provide alternative ways to resolve your dispute. Generally, these include using a neutral third party to help you find a resolution. While the court may be considered the original “neutral third party”, most people find litigation (court procedures) to be time consuming, stressful, and expensive. ADR programs are here to offer you an option that can bring closure more efficiently and in some ways, more effectively.

San Luis Obispo County Superior Court ADR programs include Mediation and Arbitration. View a list of the mediators that can be found in the Mediation Binders located in all civil courtrooms.


Mediation is fair, voluntary, confidential, and flexible. Choosing mediation allows you to try and resolve the situation based on what’s most important to you.The mediator facilitates a productive process to help break down the barriers in communication that often go up due to conflict, and to explore options allowing parties to arrive at a mutual, acceptable resolution.The mediator does not decide the dispute; the parties retain power over the outcome.


Arbitration is normally an informal process in which a neutral person (the arbitrator) decides the dispute after hearing the evidence and arguments of the parties.The parties can agree to binding or non-binding arbitration.Binding arbitration is designed to give each side a resolution of their dispute when they cannot agree between themselves or with a mediator. If the arbitration is non-binding, any party can reject the arbitrator’s decision and request a trial. Generally arbitration must be ordered by the court. In San Luis Obispo Superior Court if there is an order for non-binding arbitration, arrangements are made through Jury Services.

Learn more on how to resolve disputes from the State Bar of California

What are the potential advantages of ADR?

  • ADR can save time and money. ADR, especially when used early in a dispute, can save a lot of time and money. Even when ADR does not result in an immediate resolution, it can produce savings by clarifying and narrowing the scope of the dispute.
  • ADR provides increased flexibility and control. ADR typically gives you greater flexibility and control in the dispute resolution process - in the procedures followed, the interests considered and the remedies adopted - than you would have in a court trial. In mediation, for example, you can work out a resolution that may not be available in court.
  • ADR is generally confidential. Confidentiality encourages openness and candor, and is considered an important factor in the effectiveness of ADR.
  • ADR can improve communication and preserve relationships. Some ADR processes are designed to reduce the hostility created by the dispute and to help each side communicate with the other. This is particularly true of mediation. The aim of mediation is to create a cooperative atmosphere in which both sides can find "win-win" solutions that will preserve or improve, rather than further damage, the relationship.
  • ADR can give you a chance to tell your side of the story. Some ADR processes will permit you to tell your side of the story in a way that cannot be done in court. This opportunity for both sides to be heard can make the difference between a satisfying or frustrating dispute resolution process.
  • ADR can reduce stress and increase satisfaction. Litigation can be highly stressful. Lack of control over the process and outcome, prolonged uncertainty and mounting costs all contribute to such stress. The benefits of many ADR processes - reduced expense, confidentiality, a quicker process, an out-of-court setting and greater control for those involved, for example - often make them less stressful.

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