Arbitration in Divorce Matters


Arbitration in divorce cases offers clients a private setting in which they can resolve most matters in a divorce.  The primary matters to be resolved in a divorce through arbitration are those related to economic issues such as equitable distribution, alimony, counsel fees, costs and expenses.  Matters such as child support and custody are generally not resolved through arbitration due to the nature of those issues.  However, arbitration is often an attractive alternative to traditional litigation relating to the economic issues in divorce for a number of reasons.  Those reasons include:



The arbitration process is completely private.  In fact, a divorce action need not be filed until all other issues are resolved.  The arbitration process begins with the parties and their respective counsel selecting a qualified arbitrator.  Often, the arbitrator is an experienced lawyer in the area of divorce law.  The parties and the arbitrator enter into an arbitration agreement which sets forth the areas the arbitrator is to address, the manner in which the issues are to be addressed, and the cost to the parties in arbitrating the issues.  Although the issues to be addressed are often those common to divorce matters, the arbitration can cover all issues related to the divorce or specific issues selected by the parties.



Arbitration is far more efficient and less time consuming than traditional litigation.  This is primarily due to the fact that the only schedules that need to be accommodated are those of the parties, their counsel and the arbitrator.  In traditional litigation, there are often lengthy delays due to the court calendar.  It is simply not possible to schedule any type of proceeding with a judge on short notice.  If a matter has to go to trial, the court calendar often necessitates that such a proceeding has to be scheduled several months in the future.  Also, many counties have permanent masters that hear divorce cases.  As such, the judge is not hearing the case.  Again, the court calendar for masters may be several months in the future.  Also, whether a judge or master hears the case, the parties often have no input on when the matter will be heard.  The court calendar dictates the schedule.   In arbitration, the arbitrator is able to schedule the case for hearing after conferring with both parties and their counsel.  A mutually agreed upon date or dates are selected and the matter is scheduled.  The arbitration process allows for the all issues to be addressed in a timely and efficient manner.



Arbitration is often less costly than traditional litigation.  In traditional litigation, the court calendar often dictates that there will be delays before a final hearing can take place.  Also, as most counties utilize masters to hear divorce cases instead of judges, a master hearing the case includes an appeal process that is costly and time consuming as well.  Arbitration can minimize most of the extra costs incurred due to delays because of the efficiency which exists due to the availability of the arbitrator to address issues.  Also, there is generally no appeals process in arbitration such as that which exists with masters.  Therefore, there are less proceedings which usually means less cost to the parties.



Arbitration offers a private, efficient, and often, less expensive manner in which parties can reach finality in their divorce.  Divorce matters in traditional litigation cases can sometimes take years to be resolved.  Due to the ability of parties to appeal decisions, a case can go on for months or years even after a trial occurs.  It can also take months to actually receive a decision after a hearing or argument before a judge.  The agreement to arbitrate which is entered into by the parties and the arbitrator can set forth the timeline which is to be filed by the arbitrator in terms of rendering a decision.  Also, the parties can agree that the arbitrator’s decision will be final. A divorce matter that drags on for years is rarely beneficial to anyone.  The finality which results from arbitration allows parties to move on with their respective lives much sooner than traditional litigation.



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