Settling Cases Before Trial

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When most people think about what a court does, they think about jury trials. In fact, of the thousands of lawsuits filed in California courts each year, most cases settle without a trial

When people cannot work out agreements on their own, they can consider working with someone who is specially trained to help them explore settlement options or to make decisions about how they will resolve their dispute. These alternatives to litigation are known as Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR.

The ADR choices available through the Contra Costa County Court include:

The California Courts provides short videos showing each ADR process.

ADR is used in many different kinds of cases including:

  • Civil cases - Limited or Unlimited Jurisdiction.
  • Small Claims - The court offers day of trial mediation for some small claims cases free of charge.
  • Family - Parents who cannot agree on how they will share and divide their parenting responsibilities after separation or divorce must go to mediation first.
    • For more information on the court's family mediation program, click here.
  • Juvenile - If referred by the Juvenile Law judge hearing your case.
  • Guardianship - If referred by the Probate judge hearing your case.

People can consider using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) either before or after a lawsuit has been filed.

Using ADR BEFORE a court case is filed:

There are alternatives available for use before filing a case. You can find private mediators and arbitrators listed in the telephone directory, or you can do a search on the Internet. Try entering "Mediator" and your City and State. You will find mediators serving your area. There are also non-profit dispute resolution agencies, often with sliding scale fees, that will handle neighborhood, landlord tenant, consumer complaints, and a whole array of conflicts.

Using ADR AFTER a court case has been filed:

The person who starts the court case will be given a Plaintiff's packet. This packet contains several forms. Among these forms are:

  • The Case Management Statement (CM-110) which requires all parties to talk about alternative dispute resolution options. It also allows you to indicate which process might work for you in this case.
  • Stipulation to attend ADR and delay the first case management conference for 90 days. If all parties to the dispute agree to use ADR at the very start of their court case, they can put off spending the time and money associated with attending their first case management conference until after they have tried to resolve the case. In limited jurisdiction cases (cases valued at less than $25,000) the parties only need to sign and file the stipulation form 15 days before their court hearing to get the extension. In unlimited jurisdiction cases (cases valued at more than $25,000), the judge must also sign the stipulation before it becomes a court order.

    No matter which kind of civil case you have, you must file the stipulation 15 days before the first scheduled case management conference. The court will process the stipulation and then you can contact the court's ADR department to get your mediation, arbitration, or other ADR case going.



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