Arbitration is sometimes a more effective alternative to court action for family disputes. Using alternative dispute resolution approaches, such as arbitration might help resolve problems that a family court judge would otherwise handle. Instead of having to appear in court, spouses or ex-spouses may utilize the arbitration procedure. Many individuals feel that less adversarial outcomes are more likely when using arbitration.

Arbitration is a process in which a trained, neutral third party hears both sides of a dispute and then makes a binding decision on the matter. This can be an attractive option for couples who want to avoid the public nature and formalities of court proceedings. It can also be less expensive than going to trial, and it can be completed in a shorter time frame.

When Can You Use Arbitration?

Arbitration can be used for a variety of family law disputes, including but not limited to:

  • Child custody and visitation: Parents can use arbitration to come to an agreement on a parenting plan that will work for their family.
  • Child support: Parents can use arbitration to determine the amount of child support that one parent will pay to the other.
  • Alimony or spousal support: Spouses can use arbitration to agree on the amount and duration of alimony payments.
  • Division of property: Spouses can use arbitration to come to an agreement on how to divide their assets and debts.

How Do You Agree to Use Arbitration?

In order for arbitration to be binding, both sides must agree to use this method to resolve their dispute. This can be done by signing a contract that states that you agree to arbitrate your dispute. Alternatively, you and the other party can go to an arbitration hearing without having previously agreed to arbitrate. If you do not agree with the arbitrator's decision, you can still go to court to have a judge hear your case.

Who Should Consider Arbitration or Other ADR Methods?

Several families can use arbitration and other ADR methods when looking to dissolve a dispute. A family may consider using an arbitration provision in an agreement with a spouse if:

  • The couple has a history of being able to communicate and work together to make decisions;
  • Both spouses feel comfortable with the idea of using arbitration to resolve their dispute;
  • The couple wants to keep their dispute private;
  • The couple wants to save time and money by avoiding a trial.

Some couples may not be suited for arbitration because they cannot communicate or work together to decide. If a couple cannot agree on the use of arbitration, it is likely that they cannot agree on the terms of their divorce. In this case, it may be best to let a judge hear the case and decide.

Contact us if you are looking to use arbitration to resolve a family law dispute. We can help you determine if this is the best option for your situation and, if so, we can assist you in drafting an arbitration agreement or contract. We can also represent you at an arbitration hearing.

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