What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution In Singapore? 3 Ways To Avoid Litigation

by | Jul 12, 2024 | Resources

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to several methods to resolve all types of disputes without resorting to traditional court proceedings. Instead of having a judge decide, ADR involves a neutral third party who helps the disputing parties reach a mutually agreeable solution.

This approach can be more flexible, cost-effective, and faster than litigation. In Singapore, ADR has become an increasingly popular method for resolving conflicts in various contexts, from commercial disputes to family matters.

3 Common ADR Processes

Several common ADR processes are used in Singapore, each with its unique dispute resolution approach. These methods include mediation, arbitration, and negotiation. Let’s explore each in depth.

1. Mediation

Mediation is when an impartial intermediary, the mediator, aids communication between the conflicting parties. The mediator’s role is to help the parties comprehend each other’s viewpoints and discover shared interests, ultimately enabling them to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution.

The mediator does not have the authority to impose a settlement but rather facilitates an environment conducive to negotiation and compromise between the parties involved.
Mediation is particularly effective in preserving relationships, as it encourages cooperative problem-solving and allows parties to control the outcome of their dispute.

2. Arbitration

Arbitration is a more structured process in which the parties in dispute mutually consent to resolve their conflict by one or more appointed arbitrators. The arbitrator assumes a role akin to that of a judge, making determinations based on the facts and reasoning presented by the parties.

Unlike mediation, where the mediator facilitates discussion to help the disputing parties agree, the arbitrator will have the authority to make a final decision that must be followed. settles the dispute.

Unlike mediation, the arbitrator’s decision is binding and enforceable, much like a court judgement. Arbitration is often used in commercial disputes due to its confidentiality, speed, and the ability to select arbitrators with specific expertise in the relevant field.

3. Negotiation

Negotiation is the most informal of the ADR processes. It involves direct communication between the disputing parties to resolve without the involvement of third parties. Successful negotiation requires effective communication, a willingness to compromise, and a clear understanding of the issues.

While it may not always be suitable for complex disputes, negotiation can be a quick and cost-effective way to resolve conflicts when both parties are willing to engage in good-faith discussions.

Benefits of Using ADR

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) offers several significant benefits, making it an attractive option for resolving disputes in Singapore.

Time and Cost Savings

One of the primary advantages of ADR is the potential for significant time and cost savings. Traditional court proceedings may take a long time and cost a lot, often taking months or even years to conclude.

In contrast, ADR processes like mediation and negotiation can be completed in a fraction of the time, reducing legal fees and associated costs.

Arbitration can also be more efficient than court litigation, particularly when parties select arbitrators with expertise in the relevant area, thereby streamlining the process.


ADR processes are generally private and confidential, unlike court cases, which are typically public. This confidentiality can be crucial for parties wishing to avoid negative publicity or disclosing sensitive information.

For instance, businesses often prefer arbitration or mediation to keep commercial disputes out of the public eye, protecting their reputation and trade secrets.


ADR offers greater flexibility compared to traditional litigation. The parties involved have more control over the process, including the selection of the neutral third party, the scheduling of sessions, and the procedural rules to be followed.

This flexibility allows ADR to be tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of the disputing parties, making it a more adaptable and responsive approach to dispute resolution.

Preserving Relationships

Unlike adversarial court battles, ADR methods such as mediation and negotiation focus on collaborative problem-solving and maintaining amicable relationships. By encouraging open communication and mutual understanding, ADR can help preserve personal and business relationships that protracted litigation might otherwise damage.

This is particularly important in contexts where ongoing interaction between the parties is necessary, such as family or business settings.

The History Of Alternative Dispute Resolution

ADR started probably during the 1980s when the administration imagined Singapore as a significant dispute resolution focus. The Singapore Government is a solid advocate of ADR and has set up a substantive institutional and infrastructural structure to help this undertaking. The Rules of Court (Cap 322, Rule 5, 1999 Rev Ed) give sufficient chance to ADR even inside a case setting. Different methods of ADR could at present be depended upon regardless of whether prosecution procedures have started. For example, prosecutors or their legitimate delegates may either apply to the court for the issue to be alluded to intervention or straightforwardly to the Singapore Mediation Center itself.

In 1986, Singapore consented to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. Under this Convention, each contracting State is required to perceive and uphold arbitral honours made in another contracting State.

In 1991, the Singapore International Arbitration Center (SIAC) was built up. This was trailed by the foundation of the Singapore Mediation Center (SMC) in 1997. From that point forward, intervention is routinely led in the Small Claims Tribunals, the Family Court, the Juvenile Courts, and the Ministry of Community, Youth and Sports’ Maintenance of Parents Tribunal (Cap 167B).

As a feature of the national exertion to cultivate an intervention culture, the Community Mediation Centers Act (Cap 49A, 1998 Rev Ed) was authorised in 1997 to lead the network intercession attempt, which is viewed as a compelling method for settling social disputes on the ground, particularly in multi-racial, multi-strict Singapore.

In April 2003, the Chief Justice delegated Justice Judith Prakash to manage all assertion matters brought under the watchful eye of the High Court. This is a piece of the Judiciary’s objective of guaranteeing that Judges with the imperative skill and experience manage cases including particular zones of law and business practice.

ADR In Specific Practice Areas

Alternative Dispute Resolution is used in various practice areas in Singapore, each with unique considerations and benefits.

Commercial Disputes

In commercial disputes, ADR methods like arbitration and mediation are commonly used to resolve conflicts efficiently and discreetly. Businesses often prefer these methods to avoid the high costs and lengthy timelines associated with court proceedings.

Additionally, the ability to choose arbitrators with specific industry expertise ensures that someone with a deep understanding of the relevant commercial context handles the dispute.

Family Disputes

ADR is also widely used in family disputes, such as divorce and child custody cases. Mediation is particularly effective in these situations, as it promotes cooperative problem-solving and aims to reduce the emotional strain on all parties involved.

By fostering a collaborative environment, mediation helps families and relatives arrive at decisions that are in the best interests of all members, especially children.


Construction disputes often involve complex technical issues and multiple parties. Arbitration and expert determination are popular ADR methods in this sector, as they allow disputes to be resolved with the input of professionals with specialised knowledge of construction practices and standards.

These methods can prevent project delays and cost overruns, ensuring construction projects proceed smoothly.


ADR Education And Training In Singapore

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) education and training are essential for effective and professional dispute resolution. Singapore offers a variety of courses and certifications to equip individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge.

ADR Courses and Certifications Available

Numerous institutions in Singapore offer ADR courses and certifications. The Singapore International Mediation Institute (SIMI) and the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) offer specialised training programs in mediation and arbitration. These programs cover fundamental principles, practical skills, and advanced techniques. Participants can earn certifications that enhance their credibility and career prospects in the ADR field.

Importance of Continuous Education for ADR Practitioners

Continuous education is vital for ADR practitioners to stay updated with evolving practices, legal developments, and emerging trends. Regular training ensures that mediators, arbitrators, and other ADR professionals maintain high standards of competency and professionalism.

By participating in ongoing education, ADR practitioners can provide the best possible service, adapt to new challenges, and uphold the integrity of the ADR process.


Conclusion On Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in Singapore offers a range of benefits, including time and cost savings, confidentiality, flexibility, and the preservation of relationships. ADR processes such as mediation, arbitration, and negotiation provide effective solutions for various disputes, from commercial and family conflicts to construction issues.

The availability of ADR education and training ensures that practitioners are well-equipped to handle disputes professionally and effectively. Continued adoption and development of ADR practices will further enhance the dispute resolution landscape in Singapore, making it an even more attractive alternative to traditional litigation.

While ADR is a great way to solve disputes, for more serious situations, you may need to secure the services of a talented criminal lawyer in Singapore if things do not resolve amicably. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, contact us through WhatsApp for expert legal advice, today!


Frequently Asked Questions About Alternative dispute resolution

What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)?

ADR refers to methods of resolving disputes outside of traditional court proceedings, involving processes like mediation, arbitration, and negotiation.

How Does Mediation Work In ADR?

In mediation, a neutral third party (mediator) helps disputing parties communicate and reach a mutually acceptable agreement without imposing a decision.

What Is The Role Of An Arbitrator In ADR?

An arbitrator acts like a judge, making binding decisions based on evidence and arguments presented by the disputing parties in a formal process.

Why Is ADR Preferred Over Traditional Litigation?

ADR is often preferred because it can be faster, less expensive, more flexible, confidential, and better at preserving relationships compared to traditional court proceedings.

What Types Of Disputes Can ADR Handle?

ADR can handle a variety of disputes, including commercial, family, and construction disputes, offering tailored solutions for each context.

Where Can I Get ADR Training In Singapore?

ADR training in Singapore is available through institutions like the Singapore International Mediation Institute (SIMI) and the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), offering courses and certifications in mediation and arbitration.

About the author

About the author

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.