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Rombro & Manley LLP
Top Certified Family Law Specialists
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Arbitration vs. mediation in my divorce: Which is a better fit?

There is a perception that California divorces need to be contentious and complicated with the sides in dispute over every issue and ending up in court. However, that does not need to be so. In some situations, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) can be effective. Two common types of ADR are arbitration and mediation. The case itself will largely dictate which is preferable to come to a reasonable conclusion that both parties can accept. When thinking about ADR, knowing the details of both is imperative and can help with making the right choice.

The differences between mediation and arbitration

Mediation and arbitration have different templates. With mediation, there is a person who has no preconceived notions nor involvement in the case. This mediator will listen to each side and try to find common ground to resolve the case. The mediator is not making a final decision. The role is to help the spouses discuss their issues and solve them amicably. Mediation can be beneficial for people who are on relatively good terms or have circumstances like children where they would like to maintain a constructive relationship. For couples that are interested in cooperation, mediation is useful. If the sides are unwilling to negotiate, it might not work. In relationships where there was abuse, then it unwise.

With arbitration, there is a neutral party who will listen to the participants’ arguments and weigh the evidence before deciding on how to end the dispute. It is not a trial and when presenting evidence, the rules are not as strict. It can be binding, but it does not need to be. If it is binding, the sides will agree that there will not be a trial and the arbitrator’s decision will be final. It cannot be appealed. If it is nonbinding, then it does not need to be accepted and if there is no agreement, a trial can be held after the fact. People who are interested in saving the time and money that a trial would cost might benefit from arbitration. They should be prepared for an outcome that is not exactly what they want. People who want some level of control and options may not want to use arbitration.

Experienced advice can help with ADR in family law

Family law and divorce can be complicated and ADR may be a useful strategy to come to an acceptable result without going to trial. Before moving forward with it, it is imperative to fully grasp what it entails. Some cases can be resolved with ADR, but others cannot. For assistance with the process and determining if there is a path forward through ADR, it is wise to have professional advice from the start.