Using Arbitration To Resolve Your Divorce Issues
Many divorces in Pennsylvania involve complex issues that need to be resolved. However, going to court to do so can become public, time-consuming and expensive, with costs ranging from $15,000 to over $100,000. However, choosing arbitration can help you with time, expenses and privacy.
What Is Arbitration?
Arbitration is an alternative method in which the spouses, each represented by their divorce lawyer, present their case to an arbitrator who decides on the divorce issues. Whether that decision is binding or not will depend on the agreement signed by the spouses before the process begins.
Understanding the Arbitration Process
The arbitration process follows specific steps. First, with your divorce lawyer’s guidance, you and your spouse hire an arbitrator to oversee your case. You both then sign an arbitration agreement that states whether you want the arbitrator’s judgment to be binding; that is, that you are not allowed to appeal it or that either one of you can appeal the judgment if you do not agree. This agreement will also include any established rules for the process and the date by which you need the arbitrator to issue its decision. The process then works like a trial, with each side presenting their case, including opening and closing statements. However, since the process does not happen in a courtroom, you do not have to wait for an open date. Instead, an arbitration process might be over in a few weeks. Once both parties present their case, the arbitrator will issue a decision or award. Depending on the arbitration agreement, the parties will either abide by the decision or appeal it.
Finding Your Arbitrator
Your lawyer can help you find your arbitrator for this process. Usually, however, divorce arbitrators are retired judges or lawyers with experience and knowledge about family law, state regulations regarding arbitration and divorce and whom you believe will be impartial and neutral. You should feel comfortable with your arbitrator, finding someone who can communicate openly and easily. Finally, the arbitrator should also be available to work during your timeframe.
Preparing for Arbitration
You and your divorce team should prepare for the arbitration process similarly to the way you would prepare for a court case. You should gather evidence to support your position and then this evidence will be presented to the arbitrator. You should also create a list of witnesses who can further support your position and will be called to answer questions during the arbitration sessions. As part of this process, you might resolve issues such as:
- Division of assets and debts
- Child custody and support
Benefits of Arbitration
Arbitration has grown in popularity as spouses seek ways to resolve their divorce issues outside of the courtroom. Some of the benefits that arbitration provides include:
- Efficiency and shorter wait time as you do not need to depend on the court schedule to present and resolve your case
- Cost-effectiveness, as the shorter wait time for resolution also can translate into lower divorce costs
- Privacy and discretion, as the information on your divorce is not shared in the public forum of the court
- Amicable resolution to the dissolution of the marriage
Drawbacks of Arbitration
While arbitration can benefit couples, it also has some drawbacks. If you signed a binding agreement, for example, you might not be able to appeal the arbitrator’s decision. On the other hand, you might end up in court anyway if your agreement allows for appeals and either you or your spouse do not agree with the decision, adding to the time and cost of the divorce.
If you want to resolve your divorce issues outside the courtroom and want to learn more about the arbitration process, you can call us at 215-886-1266 to schedule a consultation with Joanne Kleiner at our Jenkintown office. You can also reach out to us through our contact form.