Dispute resolution
in West Virginia

While courtroom litigation takes center stage in Hollywood movies, West Virginia residents seeking to address their legal issues have another option: Alternative dispute resolution. Resolving disputes outside of court is a common practice in many areas of law, and its popularity stems from the number of advantages it offers. Alternative dispute resolution is often cheaper, faster, and less stressful for those on either side of the negotiation. With help from a lawyer experienced in alternative dispute resolution, West Virginia residents can work toward a positive outcome to even the most challenging legal impasses. To explore this option further, contact Zeni Law at your earliest convenience. 

What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Alternative dispute resolution occurs when parties to a disagreement explore different options to avoid courtroom litigation. Litigation is the legal process whereby parties pursue trials to resolve their disputes. This is the process that most people are familiar with – and it is commonly highlighted in films and television. In litigation, a judge or a jury reviews the circumstances of each case and determines how the conflict should be resolved. Both sides will generally be able to present evidence and argue their points. 

In contrast, the alternative dispute resolution process occurs outside of the courtroom. These discussions are private and often subject to strict confidentiality agreements. The negotiations may be led by trained professionals, such as mediators, arbitrators, or collaborative law attorneys. The end goal of alternative dispute resolution is to create an agreement that addresses the conflict. This may take the form of a legal contract that both parties sign. Once the contract has been drafted by appropriate lawyers – such as those at Zeni Law – it may be approved by a judge. At this point, the agreement becomes legally enforceable. 

Benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution

There are many benefits associated with alternative dispute resolution. Some of the most compelling advantages it can offer over traditional litigation include:

  • Fewer expenses and legal fees
  • Quicker resolutions on average
  • Less stressful compared to trials
  • Greater privacy than is typical for court proceedings
  • May cause less distress for children


In many cases, parties may have no choice but to attempt alternative dispute resolution. The contract terms typically bind signatories to a contract that specifies alternative dispute resolution methods. Even when no such binding agreement is in effect, courts may order parties to attempt to negotiate an agreement before proceeding with a trial.

Mediation is one example of alternative dispute resolution, and it involves a negotiation process led by a mediator. Ideally, a mediator will have the necessary skills and experience to resolve conflicts. Mediators aim to adopt an unbiased mindset when approaching negotiations, as they consider the best interests of both parties. A mediator does not “take sides”; they attempt to guide the discussion toward a mutually beneficial outcome. Often, mediators are qualified lawyers – but not always. 

Arbitration is another example of alternative dispute resolution in West Virginia. This process relies on the oversight of an arbitrator. While a mediator can only suggest specific outcomes, an arbitrator renders a binding judgment based on the negotiation process. They may take into account evidence or arguments presented by both sides, and they might also consider the potential influence of local West Virginia laws. While this decision-making authority sets arbitrators apart from mediators, both approach negotiations with a neutral, unbiased mindset. 

Collaborative law is an alternative dispute resolution that applies specifically to family law. In this process, each party (usually spouses or parents) approaches negotiations with their collaborative law attorney. Unlike mediators or arbitrators, these collaborative law attorneys focus solely on the best interests of their clients. In other words, they are not neutral. Nevertheless, they strive to resolve conflicts without going to court, which can make life easier for those going through divorce or custody battles. Collaborative law is a popular choice in divorce cases, as many people prefer to have a lawyer “fighting in their corner,” even in relatively amicable divorce proceedings. 

What Kind of Qualifications Should Mediators and Arbitrators Have?

West Virginia has strict requirements for those who wish to act as arbitrators, mediators, or collaborative law attorneys. Professionals in the first two groups collectively fall into the general category of “neutrals,” while collaborative attorneys are subject to a distinct – but related – set of criteria. Note that in many cases, these neutrals do not require any legal experience as judges or lawyers. However, many lawyers meet these requirements and use their legal expertise to great effect during alternative dispute resolution. According to the West Virginia Judiciary, family mediators must meet specific requirements before overseeing alternative conflict resolution:

  • Completion of a four-year post-secondary degree
  • Completion of forty hours of family mediation training
  • Observation of two family court mediations
  • Completion of three co-mediations alongside experienced mediators
  • Possession of proper professional liability insurance
  • 12 hours of continued mediation education every two years

The West Virginia Bar has several approved courses relating to arbitration and mediation, and many neutrals complete these courses to gain widely respected certifications. One such example is the Advanced Mediation Training Program. 

Conflict Resolution Programs in West Virginia

The State of West Virginia may order parties to engage in conflict resolution programs in certain situations. For example, West Virginia Code § 48-9-202 states that if two parents cannot resolve their custody-related issues, the court shall order them to engage in a mediation process. This means that they will have no choice but to attempt to resolve their differences behind closed doors – although the court cannot force them to agree on anything. West Virginia law states courts may order arbitration if certain disputes arise within enforceable agreements. 

Reach Out to your Alternative Dispute Lawyer Today

Residents of West Virginia do not necessarily need to go through a time-consuming, expensive trial to resolve legal disputes. Instead, they can contact Zeni Law for an alternative dispute resolution plan. With guidance from a lawyer experienced in this area, even the most complex legal disputes may be resolved efficiently. The most appropriate strategy depends on the unique considerations of each conflict, so contact Zeni Law today for more targeted guidance.