These days, many couples are searching for what they hope is an easier, cheaper approach to divorce (and resolution of other disputes too). Different practitioners each tout their own preferred methodology.
One such available methodology that gets less attention than some others is arbitration. Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution option, in that it aims to avoid lengthy family court litigation (paper motions and multiple legal and/or evidentiary hearings) that culminates in a divorce court trial before a family court judge in a family court courtroom.
Compared to mediation, another alternative dispute resolution methodology, arbitration is still fairly trial-like. So what is arbitration, and why would someone consider using arbitration?
In a nutshell, arbitration is generally faster, more private, less expensive and less formal than conventional litigation.
An arbitrator, a privately engaged professional, often a former judge, presides over proceedings as an ultimate decision-maker, much like a judge. But in arbitration, the parties get to choose their arbitrator for themselves.
An arbitrator hears testimony and also considers other, nontestimonial evidence in arriving at an award, much like a judge.
Typically, an arbitrator’s decision in a binding arbitration is final (although there are certain narrow exceptions).
The arbitration process is generally leaner and more streamlined than typical family court proceedings. Most hearings before the ultimate hearing are eliminated, and development of evidence from the opponent and third parties is normally reduced. This saves parties money as well as time.
And the “main event” is not held in a public courtroom.
Of course, like almost anything else, arbitration can be misused and abused so as to erode its good features and advantages.
Arbitration has not gained great traction in Florida family law yet, but it is finding favor in Canada and other countries already.