The ADR Department is located at:

Spinetta Family Law Center
751 Pine Street
Martinez, CA 94553
(925) 608-2075
(925) 608-2109 Fax

There are many ways to settle disputes without going to trial. ADR stands for Alternative Dispute Resolution. It refers to processes that are “alternatives” to having a trial to resolve your dispute. Mediation is the leading alternative, but arbitration and neutral case evaluation are also common options. Detailed rules for these options are found in the Court’s Local Rules starting at Local Rule 3.200 [link]Different ADR processes are designed for different disputes, or different phases of the same dispute, and provide different results. You can choose the process that will best meet your objectives. Here are some specific suggestions for each process offered by the Contra Costa County Superior Court.


You may choose mediation because you want to maintain control of the outcome of your dispute, but are having trouble speaking to the other side. You may also choose mediation because there is a relationship you wish to preserve. For example, to keep a business relationship with a customer, or an employee might choose mediation to resolve a dispute with an employer because they do not wish to look for a new job. A mediator will work with both sides, together and separately, trying to help you reach resolution. [More Information]

Judicial Arbitration (Non-binding)

You may choose non-binding arbitration because you would like to have a neutral decision-maker hear your case, while maintaining the right to go to trial. The arbitrator will review evidence and arguments very much like a trial and will make a decision (award). An arbitrator’s award can be helpful to parties who are disagreeing about liability or the law. Once you have received an award from the arbitrator you can decide whether to accept or reject the award. If you decide to reject the award, you can file for a new trial (Trial de Novo). While the arbitrator will not help you communicate or negotiate, you can negotiate your own agreement outside of the arbitration, go to a mediator for assistance, or proceed with a trial. [More Information]

Neutral Case Evaluation

A neutral evaluator gives an independent opinion about what would happen if the case went to trial, and can provide all parties with important feedback regarding the weaknesses and strengths of their case. The evaluator does not facilitate agreement discussions or decide who is right or wrong. After the case evaluation, you can use the information you learned to settle the case or enter a different ADR process such as mediation. Some parties find a neutral case evaluation particularly helpful in assessing personal injury damages or the extent of business losses. [More Information]

Settlement Mentor

An experienced lawyer selected by the ADR Program at the request of the Judge will help parties, before the scheduled trial or settlement conference, explore ways to settle their case. If settlement is not possible, the scheduled trial or conference will begin, often on the same day or soon after. A settlement mentor can help parties assess the risks they face in going to trial. The settlement mentor conference is not confidential, and your mentor can share information with the judge. [More Information]

What are the advantages of using ADR?

ADR can have a number of advantages over traditional court litigation.

  • ADR can save time. Even in a complex case, a dispute can be resolved through ADR in a matter of months or weeks while a lawsuit can take years.
  • ADR can save money. By producing earlier settlements, ADR can save parties and courts money that might otherwise be spent on litigation costs (attorney's fees and court expenses.)
  • ADR provides more participation. Parties have more opportunity with ADR to express their own interests and concerns, while litigation focuses exclusively on the parties' legal rights and responsibilities.
  • ADR provides more control and flexibility. Parties can choose the ADR process most appropriate for their particular situation and that will best serve their particular needs.
  • ADR can reduce stress and provide greater satisfaction. ADR encourages cooperation and communication, while discouraging the adversarial atmosphere found in litigation. Surveys of disputants who have gone through ADR have found that satisfaction with ADR is generally high, especially among those with extensive ADR experience.