If You Choose Arbitration
How to Divorce
In divorce arbitration, the divorce case is presented to a neutral party called an arbitrator who – like a judge – has the power to decide what should happen in the case. Arbitrators may be matrimonial lawyers or former judges but in any case, they should be familiar with the law. The arbitrator has power to compel decisions over the objection one or both parties. The decisions may be either binding or non-binding. If binding, parties are usually bound by the decision until you can prove the arbitrator was really biased, made a gross error of law or exceeded the arbitrator’s authority. A non-binding decision may be appealed, but if the end result is the same as the first decision or more favorable to the other spouse, the spouse who appealed may be ordered to pay the other’s costs.
Because, unlike a mediator, an arbitrator may make decisions that you may not like, picking an arbitrator is critical. Generally you and your spouse are allowed to settle on who the arbitrator will be or set up the process of how the arbitrator will be selected if you cannot agree on a choice. Sometimes both parties are permitted to submit a list from which the judge chooses. Whatever the process, the arbitrator will act like a hired judge although not required to be a lawyer.
Remember that you will be paying for this service. Decide before hand if you will share the cost with your spouse or divide it. Arbitrators are often called upon when the divorce process derails because the parties can’t agree on one issue such as who will pay for children’s college tuition. Focusing one issue often moves the process along.