when is arbitration the right choice

Is Arbitration The Right Choice?

Goldberg Jones Divorce 1 Comment

Going to court during divorce is stressful, hectic, expensive, and a variety of other things. There are other options for ending a marriage out there, however. One many couples opt for is arbitration. It can be complicated and may not fit every situation, but it may be right for your case.

What Is Arbitration?

In family law, arbitration is an alternate dispute resolution(ADR). That’s a fancy way of saying it’s an alternative to the traditional method of going to court, presenting arguments, and having a judge rule.

When it comes to arbitration, the parties contractually agree to handle the matter privately. The two sides enlist a third party, an arbitrator, to come in, meet with both, and decide on the issues before them. In this way, divorcing couples can reach terms on child custody, division of property, who gets the pets, spousal support, child support, and all the other topics that arise during the process.

As it is voluntary, both spouses must agree to enter into family law arbitration. No one can be compelled into this undertaking against their will. When they do sign the agreement, however, it is binding. Both sides must consent to have their dispute settled in this arena and abide by the ultimate decision.

Like with any legal option, it’s likely in your best interest to consult an attorney or experienced professional before entering into any binding agreement. Because it’s not court, if things aren’t going their way, some people think they can get out of arbitration in the middle.

With a few exceptions, that’s not an option unless the other party also approves. But if they’re winning, why would they do that? Also, because it’s not court, you can’t appeal any rulings handed down. Another reason to carefully consider all the options ahead of time.

How Does Arbitration Work?

While it has been used for years in a variety of types of lawsuits, arbitration has become a popular tool in divorce. Though it’s not a trial, the process does have some of the earmarks of a court proceeding.

Similar to a traditional trial, in arbitration, both sides prepare cases, lay out arguments, and present evidence to support their claims. Instead of laying this out before a judge, they do so in front of an arbitrator, often a lawyer or a retired judge who you pay. Most likely, if you and your spouse have each retained divorce attorneys, they will decide on an appropriate choice to oversee your case. Despite the parallels, arbitration is usually much less formal than a courtroom setting.

Why Choose Arbitration?

Privacy: One of the big draws of arbitration is that it offers relative privacy. Though court documents will still be public record, the actual proceeding is not public, like a trial. It’s just you, your spouse, your representation, and the arbitrator. No need to air dirty laundry in public.

Cost: Though arbitration can still be expensive, it’s most often substantially less expensive than going to court.

Speed: A big part of why this process usually costs less than a trial is because it’s often much faster. The process itself doesn’t take as long, and with different, less strict rules and regulations, divorce lawyers often don’t have to spend as much time in preparation.

Flexibility and Convenience: It can take months to schedule a court hearing. And when that finally happens, your schedule is rarely taken into account. Arbitration, on the other hand, can be scheduled at your convenience, when it works best for the two sides. A date can also usually be arranged much quicker than a trial.

Less Formal: Arbitration is a much less formal affair than a trial and has simpler rules. This environment may put some people at ease. It can sooth the heightened tensions of court, give participants more opportunity to speak up, and may lead to the two sides working better together.

Why Arbitration May Be The Wrong Choice

In certain cases, there are great benefits to arbitration, but that’s not to say it isn’t without potential disadvantages.

The fact that, unlike court, there is no appeal process for unfavorable decisions may turn some parties off to arbitration. Especially as divorce cases can be unpredictable, the idea of being stuck with the resolution may unsettle people.

Though an arbitration agreement is binding, if your spouse doesn’t abide by it, you may still have to go to court to enforce the order. This can take a lot of time and money, and perhaps a middle step could have been avoided.

An alternative to a traditional divorce trial, arbitration is an option for some divorces in certain cases. There are times when it can be the right choice, and times when other options are preferable. As with most legal decisions, it will likely be in your best interest to consult a divorce lawyer beforehand and fully explore all of your options.

Related Reading: Digital Snooping In Divorce
Related Reading: How To Ask For A Divorce

Comments 1

  1. One particular primary good thing about uncontested divorce is the savings in divorce costs. While legal professional representation will often be a good idea even in an uncontested divorce, the sleek procedure includes lowered courtroom costs, as well at lowered legal professional bills.

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