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The Basics of Arbitration

The family law attorneys at Rodier Family Law describe what to expect before, during and after arbitration proceedings.

Often  formal contracts will contain clauses that require parties to resolve their disputes through an arbitration process, but this process may also be used for family law matters where no contract is present. Many couples will use arbitration when they have disagreements on how marital property should be divided or for disagreements regarding child custody. The experienced alternative dispute resolution attorneys at Rodier Family Law have provided basic details about what you may be able to expect when entering into an arbitration proceeding for a family law matter.

Preliminary Considerations

Depending on the terms of the arbitration agreement, parties may be required to choose the arbitrators responsible for overseeing and deciding upon the dispute. Typically, an arbitrator will be an experienced attorney or retired judge who is familiar with family law. Once this has been determined, the arbitrator may decide upon a schedule for the arbitration hearings, as well as any rules that will be implemented during the process. In some cases, these details will be outlined during preliminary hearings or during an informal meeting.

Unlike other legal hearings, arbitration can take place in a less formal setting than a courtroom. The parties involved in the dispute may agree to have the hearing take place in an office, conference room or another neutral location.

The Arbitration Hearing

During the hearing, each party will have the opportunity to present its own recount of the dispute. This will typically involve an opening statement and the presentation of any relevant evidence that the party has collected. In some cases, parties may call witnesses to testify, answer questions and be cross examined. Once both parties have had the opportunity to present their arguments and evidence, each may again have an opportunity to address the arbitrator(s) through a closing statement. This statement will often serve to summarize the argument that the party has set forth, recount any pertinent supporting evidence and provide reasons as to why the arbitrator should decide in that party’s favor.

Once the hearing has concluded, the arbitrator(s) will analyze the arguments and evidence that have been presented and, based on this information, make a decision. This decision may not be solely based on principles of law, as the arbitrator is not required, as judges are in court, to consider previous cases and precedents when deciding on a dispute. Instead, the arbitrator will use their personal interpretation of justice and best judgment to make a ruling that they believe to be right or fair.

When the arbitrator has reached a decision, they will typically submit it as a written statement. This statement often identifies the winning party, and may outline the reasoning behind their ruling.

Post-Arbitration Considerations

Arbitration can be both binding or non-binding in certain circumstances. If the parties have agreed to engage in non-binding arbitration, the losing party may have the opportunity to have the case appealed or reviewed by a court. If arbitration is over child custody concerns, such as child support, legal custody and visitation, it is always non-binding, and the court has the legal capability to overturn arbitration decisions.

If the arbitration is binding, there are still several circumstances in which a decision might be reviewed or overturned by a court.

For additional information regarding alternative dispute resolution methods, including arbitration and mediation, contact the experienced attorneys at Rodier Family Law.