Binding Arbitration

Arbitration: A Way Out of Court

Sometimes, once a traditional divorce case has been filed, the parties have strong opposing views which preclude resolution. In lieu of a trial, they may agree to go to binding arbitration. In arbitration, both parties agree to let a third person, usually an attorney, decide the issues on which they cannot agree. These issues may include child custody, child support, spousal support, parenting time, and property division.

Arbitration may be a good solution for high-conflict cases that cause scheduling problems in the court because of the time needed to hear the issues. The parties will get an arbitration date sooner than a court date. It is also a more economical alternative to an extended trial for parties who simply cannot agree.

Whatever issues the parties agree to submit to arbitration are thus decided by someone other than the parties. Once the arbitrator makes a final recommendation, the resulting settlement is submitted to a judge. The judge must enter the settlement, unless the arbitrator breaks very limited rules.

Advantages of Arbitration

  • The parties and their attorneys can select their arbitrator, (they cannot select their judge).
  • Arbitrators often work faster than a judge to decide disputes.
  • Unlike court, where parties' cases are heard on a docket with many other cases, appointments with the arbitrator are for their case only.
  • Arbitration meetings tend to be less formal than court, so people may feel more free to speak up.
  • The parties, not the court calendar, decide when and how much time the arbitrator spends on their case.

Disadvantages of Arbitration

  • Parties pay by the hour for the arbitrator's┬átime.
  • The couple gives up their power to decide and leaves their fate in the hands of a third party.
  • Once binding arbitration is agreed to there is no turning back (for this reason you need to carefully review exactly what issues are to be decided by the arbitrator).
  • The arbitrator's decision cannot be appealed.