Arbitration is a less formal option for divorce cases. It is where a third person, called the arbitrator, acts as the “judge” for the case. Arbitrators are not like mediators. Similar to judges, arbitrators are trained to hear testimony, receive evidence, and make a decision for the couple. If you decide to use arbitration, an arbitration agreement has to be signed by both you and your spouse. Doing this gives the arbitrator the authority to make decisions in the divorce case. It also narrows down the issues (those usually not resolved in mediation), and outlines whether or not the arbitrated award is compulsory and therefore a court order.
Like mediation, both parties typically hire attorneys to help with the process. This ensures that you are both guided and represented by someone with experience. Like court cases, there is a “hearing” in arbitration cases, but it is less formal. This includes opening statements, presenting the evidence, cross-examination, and closing arguments. However, like a trial, you don’t have much control over the outcome. Also, depending on the arbitration agreement, your arbitration may not be confidential. Arbitration is also usually more expensive than mediation. This is because both you and your spouse will hire attorneys, pay the arbitrator, and prepare for the “trial” or “hearing.” Like actual trial cases, this preparation can be extensive and take a lot of time.