NY Alternatives to Small Claims Court

You need not go to small claims court to resolve your dispute. There are alternative ways to solve your legal problems outside of court. These alternatives are called alternative dispute resolution or ADR for short.

ADR is a process in which a neutral person helps people resolve their case. ADR is designed to provide an opportunity to settle all or part of the case early on and keep the costs to a minimum.

There are community dispute resolution centers available in every county of New York State. These centers serve as a community resource where you and another person can discuss and solve your dispute through mediation.

There are many different kinds of ADR. But all of them use a neutral person to decide a case or help both sides come to an agreement without a trial. ADR is usually less formal, less expensive and less time-consuming than a trial.


Mediation is a type of ADR. It is a confidential, informal procedure guided by a neutral third party called a mediator. A mediator is trained to help people resolve their disputes. A mediator doesn't offer an opinion about the problem or about whether one side or the other might succeed in court. A mediator can't make a decision. A mediator helps you and another person to identify the problem, explore different ways to solve your problem and to find a solution that is acceptable to both people involved.

A mediation often results in a written agreement between the people involved. There normally is no charge or filing fee. Your case will be scheduled quickly at a time and place convenient to the people involved. You can find the address and telephone number for the community dispute resolution center near you in your telephone book. You can also get a brochure at the small claims court office that lists local dispute resolution centers.

In New York City, during the school year, law school students from various law schools are available in the small claims court to mediate small claims. These law students are trained by the court to assist litigants to mediate their disputes. If one of the parties asks for the court and the court determines that the case won't be heard by the judge, you will be asked to mediate your case. If your case isn't settled, you will be given a date to return for trial. Arbitrators are also available, after they have completed their trials, to mediate your small claim.

Benefits of ADR

Some potential benefits of ADR are to:

  • Save time
  • Save money
  • Increase control over the process and the outcome
  • Preserve relationships
  • Increase satisfaction
  • Improve attorney-client relationships

Questions for Your Attorney

  • How can I find out about what types of ADR programs are available to me?
  • What is the success rate of ADR?
  • Are there certain cases that work better using ADR?
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