When spouses decide to divorce, they may think they have to go to court to resolve any disputes. However, there are two alternative dispute resolution options they may want to consider, called mediation and arbitration.
With mediation, the spouses meet with a neutral third party, called a mediator. This person does not decide the outcome for the parties, but instead can help them come to an agreement. Sometimes, mediation is court ordered. The spouses can also decide to voluntarily participate in mediation.
The mediator usually meets with each spouse to go over the process and to understand what each spouse would like to accomplish through mediation. If the mediator can understand the dispute early in the process, it can lead to faster resolution.
If the parties reach an agreement, they can submit it in writing to the court. If they cannot agree, they still have the option to have a judge decide the outcome.
Arbitration is another process that the spouses can use to resolve disputes without going to court. The spouses explain their concerns to an arbitrator, who then makes a final decision. The decision, called an award, is binding.
The parties will present documents, witnesses and other materials in an arbitration hearing. Once the arbitrator issues the award, it is enforceable. If a spouse does not comply with the judgment, the other spouse can go to court.
Both mediation and arbitration are generally confidential. They may be less expensive and more time efficient than going to court. For spouses who want to quickly and amicably resolve their disagreements, they may want to consider alternative dispute resolution.