March 31, 2020
Civil ADR Frequently Asked Questions

What is Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a way of solving legal problems without going to trial.

There are different kinds of ADR, but all of them use a neutral person to help the parties solve their dispute. The most popular form of ADR is mediation.


What are the advantages of using ADR?

Going to trial can take years; ADR usually takes weeks or months.
Because ADR is faster, you may save on attorney fees and court costs.
More control
In mediation, all sides get the chance to express their opinions and concerns and have input on the outcome of their case.
More flexible
You and the other parties get to choose the neutral who you think would be best for your case.
In mediation, the parties cooperate to find a mutually agreeable solution.
Less stress
The goal of mediation is to find a solution that works for all sides. The process can be less hostile than going to court. Our surveys tell us that the parties find that ADR experience is easier and more satisfying than going to trial.


ADR can have some disadvantages

You may give up rights in binding arbitration (only)
In binding arbitration you give up your right to go to court and ask a judge or jury to decide your case or your right to appeal the arbitrator's decision.
You may go to court anyway
If you can't solve your case with ADR, you'll have to spend more time and money on a lawsuit.
Not free
The neutral may charge a fee, but the ADR program can help you pay the fee if you qualify for financial aid.
Time may run out
The law gives you a certain amount of time to present your lawsuit. This is called a "statute of limitations." Be careful not to let the statute of limitations run out while you are in the ADR process.


Are there different kinds of ADR?

Yes, there are many different kinds of ADR. The most common ones are:

A neutral person ("mediator") helps the parties communicate their positions, clarify facts, identify the legal issues and explore legal options. The mediator will help the parties agree on a solution that is acceptable to all sides.
A neutral person ("arbitrator") will review the evidence, hear arguments, and make a decision on your case. The parties can agree ahead of time to accept the neutral's decision. This is called binding arbitration. Or, if parties ask for non-binding judicial arbitration, then they do not have to accept the arbitrator's decision.
Neutral Evaluation
A neutral person ("neutral evaluator") listens to the parties and asks them questions about their case. The neutral evaluator reads the parties' written statements, reviews evidence and may hear witness testimony. The neutral evaluator helps the parties identify the most important legal issues in their case, organize their discovery and gives them an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each side's case.


How does ADR work in San Mateo County?

Anyone who files a civil suit in San Mateo County will get a Civil ADR Information Sheet. The person who files the suit (the Plaintiff) must include the ADR Information Sheet with the complaint when serving the Defendant.

If you and the other parties decide to use ADR to solve your case, you must fill out and file a special form, called a Stipulation and Order To ADR form.


How do I pick a Neutral?

You and the other parties can agree on your own ADR neutral. You can also find the Panelist List with all the neutrals in the court's ADR program and review the resumes of neutrals by clicking on the names.


What if we do not use ADR to resolve our case?

In California, judges encourage parties to use some form of ADR before they go to trial.

You (or your lawyer) must fill out a Case Management Statement before each of your Case Management Conferences ("CMC"). You can download the Case Management Statement from this website, or look for it in the complaint packet that is served on all parties.

You must file this Case Management Statement form at least 15 days before your Case Management Conference.

You will meet with a judge at your first Case Management Conference approximately within 120 days of filing the Complaint.

The judge will tell you about Appropriate Dispute Resolution options (ADR) and encourage you to participate in ADR.

If you and the other parties agree to ADR, you must file a Stipulation and Order To ADR at the court Clerk's Office.


If I sign up for ADR, do I still have to go to the Case Management Conference?

If you decide to do ADR and you file a Stipulation and Order to ADR at least 10 days before your first case management conference, the court will automatically postpone (continue) your first case management conference 90 days.

The Clerk's Office will send you a notice with your new case management conference date. The 90 days will give you time to resolve your case using ADR.


Do I have to pay to use ADR?

Yes. You and the other parties will pay the neutral directly.

You do not have to pay the court for voluntary and mandatory settlement conferences that are provided by the court.


What if I don't have enough money to pay the fees?

Ask the ADR Coordinator if you are eligible for financial aid for ADR. You will have to fill out an income information sheet or Financial Aid Application. The Coordinator will review your application and if it is granted, you will receive help in paying the ADR neutral's fees.


Are there any other forms we have to fill out?

Yes. Within 10 days of completing ADR, you and your lawyer (if you have one) must fill out and either an Evaluation by Attorneys or Client Evaluation and mail or fax it to the ADR office at:
400 County Center,
Redwood City, CA 94063


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