Most people have heard of the legendary dispute technique adopted by King Solomon almost 3,000 years ago when he was faced with two women, both of whom claimed to be the mother of a single baby. Solomon ordered that the baby was to be cut in half, with half to be given to each woman.
One woman accepted the decision while the other begged the King to give the live baby to the first woman. Solomon concluded that the real mother would not allow the child to be harmed and gave the baby to the second woman.
In New Zealand today, a similar dispute is more likely to be resolved after a thorough and careful weighing of detailed evidence and submissions, in a process involving the Family Court, which may take months. One thing that the story illustrates is the tendency, in an increasingly complex society, to replace straightforward informal procedures with an ever growing number of specialist courts, tribunals and other bodies to deal with a variety of disputes.
What are my options for Dispute Resolution?
In New Zealand, the Court system provides a formal Government setting for people to bring disputes before a Judge. There are however various alternative roads to resolve disputes in addition to litigation through the Courts. If you are involved in a dispute today, one of the first questions you need to ask is which of the many procedures available is most appropriate for you.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
There are a number of different options that come under the heading of alternative dispute resolution:
Negotiation: Negotiation is one of the least formal procedures. It involves the parties attempting to resolve the issues between themselves without the involvement of a third party for determination (although each party may be represented by a lawyer, who helps them present their arguments during the negotiations).
Assisted Negotiation: Assisted Negotiation is still very informal but involves a third party who attempts to help the disputing parties reach a resolution.
Mediation: Mediation also involves a third party but is a more structured process than assisted negotiation. A mediator will follow a particular process to identify the issues and will take a proactive approach in helping the parties to find a solution that is acceptable to both of them. A key aspect of mediation is that the solution should come from the parties themselves. Although a mediator may suggest a solution, a crucial element of mediation is that the mediator cannot impose a resolution.
Arbitration: Arbitration is the most formal of the alternative dispute resolution procedures and is similar in many ways to a court hearing, with the arbitrator assuming the role of judge. The significant difference between arbitration and the other alternative dispute resolution methods is that an arbitrator does impose a decision on the parties.
The alternative dispute resolution options are usually quicker than litigation, and can be cheaper, although arbitration in particular is often at least as expensive as litigation. Alternative dispute resolution can also help to resolve a dispute without permanently ending the relationship between the parties to that dispute.
Litigation is the process of formally bringing a dispute before a court or tribunal, for resolution by a judge or other decision maker.
The two main courts in New Zealand are the District Court, which deals with disputes concerning amounts less than $200,000, and the High Court, which deals with disputes concerning $200,000 and above.
There are also several specialist courts, such as the Family Court, Environment Court and Employment Court. Similarly, there are many specialist tribunals and other forums that can hear and determine disputes in specific areas, such as the Tenancy Tribunal and the Weathertight Homes Resolution Service.
Parry Field Lawyers offer legal advice in resolving disputes both through methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution and through litigation in the Courts. Should you need any assistance resolving disputes, please contact Paul Cowey (348-8480) at Parry Field Lawyers.