Understanding Mediation and Arbitration in Divorce Cases

Often, when people unfamiliar with the divorce process are asked to describe what it is like, many tend to paint a picture of an angry couple, each with their own aggressive attorneys, battling it out tooth and nail over every issue in a courtroom. It’s understandable, as that can often be the image portrayed on television shows and in movies. After all, drama sells. 

The good news, though, is that divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. Sure, in some cases it is. But the good news is that in many cases, especially today, couples can use alternative methods of resolving their issues – methods that are cooperative, collaborative, and that keep them out of a courtroom. Mediation and arbitration are two of the most popular alternative dispute resolution methods used today. 

More About Mediation

Mediation is perhaps one of the most popular and widely used methods of resolving divorce issues outside of the courtroom. Essentially, it is a method that is used to resolve disputes in which both parties involved in a dispute agree to meet with a neutral, third-party mediator who helps them to work toward the resolution of their issues cooperatively and communicatively.  Often, the mediator will be another attorney who is a certified family and divorce mediator, a trained professional counselor, or in some cases even a retired judge.  

Mediation is a method used to resolve disputes in which both parties during a divorce (or other legal dispute) meet with a neutral and objective third-party mediator who helps them to find ways of resolving their issues cooperatively, and in a way that works out to everyone’s satisfaction. In many cases, the mediator may be an attorney who is certified in family and divorce mediation, while in other cases, it may be a retired judge or a trained professional counselor. The mediation typically takes place in a neutral location, and the parties work together toward creating an agreement that sets forth the solutions they agree to concerning the issues between them.  

As with any legal process, mediation has both its pros and cons. Some of the benefits of mediation include:

  • It is usually less time-consuming: Mediation generally takes less time than traditional litigation, as the court system has many cases to handle at once, often causing things to be processed and scheduled more slowly than the parties might be able to do on their own. Additionally, less formal preparation is needed for mediation, and mediation sessions are often shorter than prolonged litigation in court.
  • It’s often less expensive: Because mediation typically takes less time than traditional litigation, it goes without saying that is it is usually also less expensive. You aren’t paying your attorney for all of the preparation and time necessary to battle out every issue in a courtroom, and you’re keeping that money in your pocket instead.
  • It allows you more freedom and flexibility: Mediation also allows the parties the freedom to work together toward resolving their issues in a way that works best for their family – and after all, no one is in a better position to know your family’s routines and needs better than you are. This often means that you end up far more satisfied with the outcome of your case than you would be if you left it up to a court to decide.
  • It protects your privacy: One thing that many couples fail to consider is that what happens in a courtroom is typically a matter of public record. Mediation, on the other hand, allows couples the option to discuss their issues and draft their agreement in privacy and in a way that protects their confidentiality. 

These are only just a few of the many benefits that mediation offers, and it is certainly a method of resolution that you may want to consider. Like any legal process, however, it may have a few drawbacks as well. Often, one drawback of mediation is that those who attend mediation expect the mediator to be a sort of substitute for their attorney. In fact, however, the mediator is not your attorney, and can not give you legal advice. You’ll still need an attorney to advise you as to your legal options and to help you protect your rights. Also, it’s important to realize that mediation isn’t for everyone. Some couples have simply reached a place in their marriage where they are too angry and emotional towards one another to effectively cooperate and communicate. In those situations, leaving the resolution of issues to the court may be the best option for your situation. 

A Closer Look at Arbitration

Arbitration is another commonly used method of dispute resolution. Typically, arbitration involves using a neutral third-party called an arbitrator to help couples to work toward resolving their issues. While it has some similarities to mediation, arbitration is somewhat of a middle ground between mediation and traditional litigation in that it tends to have more rules and structure than mediation does.  

During a typical arbitration, the arbitrator acts as a judge, hearing testimony and evidence presented by the parties, and issues a final binding decision. Often, arbitration is used if couples have not succeeded at mediation, but don’t yet want to proceed to a full-fledged trial in a courtroom. While similar to a trial in some ways, the process can be more private, less stressful, and allows the parties to avoid the expense of preparing and participating in a long and drawn-out trial. 

One of the downsides of arbitration for many couples, however, is that as with a trial, when parties leave the decision to an arbitrator, they ultimately give up their control over the outcome of their issues. It’s also important to understand that once a decision is issued by an arbitrator, it is binding, and often cannot be changed without the agreement of both parties. 

Ultimately, both arbitration and mediation have their advantages and disadvantages, and depending upon your unique circumstances, one option might be a better way to resolve your issues than another. Often, thinking this through and choosing a method to resolve your issues is best achieved by speaking with your spouse and your attorneys about the benefits and drawbacks of each, and what might work best for your family.

The Law Office of Dustin McCrary – Here to Help

If you have decided upon, or are considering divorce, we cannot promise you that it will be a process that is easy or stress-free. It’s simply just a difficult time in life, for any number of reasons. What is true, though, is that if you make an effort to resolve your issues cooperatively and collaboratively, you can eliminate at least some of that stress, and ensure that you can move forward toward your next chapter with optimism for the future. At The Law Office of Dustin McCrary, we’re here to help you do exactly that. Call us at any time.

We’ll meet you right where you are.

You can trust our compassionate expertise to help you navigate the legal and emotional difficulties of divorce.

Where clients are neighbors, not numbers.