Litigation is a very stressful and expensive process that pits one divorce litigation attorney against another divorce litigation attorney. It is set up to make each side assume a winner takes all posture. In the litigation process, the parties or their attorneys each present their best case for their desired outcome and the judge or master makes a ruling based on the law and the facts and evidence presented.
The decision may be appealed to higher courts if either side is unhappy with the result.
Private arbitration is an alternate dispute resolution procedure whereby an attorney who is knowledgeable in the field of law surrounding the dispute is hired to act as a judge to settle the dispute. In the area of family law, it would be a skilled family law attorney who is respected by the family law bar and who has many years of litigation experience in family law.
The arbitration parties and the attorney serving as the arbitrator sign a written contract outlining the terms and conditions of the arbitration process such as whether or not the arbitrator’s decision is final and binding or if the decision can be appealed to the court and under what circumstances. There are also other terms outlined in the arbitration contract such as when, how, and what documents or evidence will be shared and the timing of the scheduling for the hearing dates. In addition, the parties agree on the location for the arbitration hearings as well as the fee that the arbitrator will be paid for hearing the case.
Advantages to Private Arbitration
More control over timelines
Potentially lower cost
Possibly eliminating the appeal process step
Possibly having an arbitrator who is more knowledgeable than a common pleas judge.
Possibly having an arbitrator who is more knowledgeable than a common pleas judge
Disadvantages to Private Arbitration
It is an adversarial proceeding. The adversarial nature of the proceedings and negotiations sometimes has adverse consequences on the relationship between the parties during and following the case. This can be particularly difficult when children are involved and you will need to continue to co-parent with the other party once the case is completed. For cases involving children, the adversarial nature of the dispute between their parents can have many different negative consequences.
If the arbitrator makes the decision, you surrender the power to determine the terms of that decision, and you lose the option of creative and more thoughtful solutions that may be better for you and the other party.
Costs can still be significant with lawyers and expert fees and multiple appearances before the arbitrator.
If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.