In divorce law, alternative forms of dispute resolution are increasingly being used by separating couples looking to avoid the expense and emotional turmoil that often characterizes a trial. One such solution is mediation, wherein an objective third party attempts to help couples reach mutually beneficial decisions in an informal environment. This neutral, less-pressurized atmosphere allows couples to confidentially discuss their issues in a way that won’t be used against them in a court of law. Mediation aims to result in a contractual agreement or settlement, signed by both parties. If both parties are deadlocked and cannot reach an agreement, the case will likely go to a trial; many states require divorcing couples to try mediation before being put on the trial calendar in an effort to reduce the number of court trials and save money that would be used on litigation.
Arbitration is similar to mediation, with a few key differences. While mediation can be used in conjunction with a court trial, arbitration is used to replace a court trial. Arbitration typically involves a panel of three arbitrators—one chosen by each divorcing party respectively, plus an additional arbitrator mutually chosen by the two appointed arbitrators—with decisions made on a majority-rule basis. Deciding whether arbitration versus mediation is the best solution for your divorce can be confusing, however, this article can provide you with a quick primer on the most distinguishable differences between the two.
Primary Differences Between Arbitration and Mediation
Whether a court trial, arbitration, or mediation is the best fit for your impending divorce is dependent upon the different needs and dynamic of each couple. Uncooperative divorces between couples that are not likely to be in agreement generally are settled by litigation. Key differences between arbitration and mediation include:
- Arbitration results in a binding contract that cannot be appealed if a party does not favor an outcome
- Arbitration is conducted by multiple arbitrators
- Arbitration replaces a court trial
- Mediation may or may not result in a binding contract, depending on if parties reach a settlement
- Mediation is usually conducted by a single mediator
- Mediation may either precede a court trial or be used in lieu of a court trial, depending on if the parties agree
Both arbitration and mediation are informal processes that are cheaper and settled faster than a court trial. However, a settlement from mediation does not have the same binding legal force as arbitration.
Contact an Alternative Dispute Resolution Lawyer
A divorce trial can be expensive, drawn-out, and emotionally draining for some couples. If you believe mediation or arbitration is the best option for your divorce, don’t hesitate to contact the proficient divorce lawyers at Holmes, Diggs & Sadler at (713) 766-5355 to learn more.