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Arbritration | Alternatives for Settling a Divorce or Custody Case Outside of Court - Part 5

Welcome to the fifth video in my series on how to resolve your divorce or child custody case outside of the courtroom.   So, in the first four videos we talked about exchanging letters or emails, informal settlement conferences, collaborative divorce and mediation.

In this video I want to talk with you about arbitration.  Arbitration is another way that you can expedite resolving your case outside of the courtroom. Although it is quite a bit like getting your case resolved in court.  In arbitration you and the other party would mutually select an arbitrator to decide the contested issues in your case.  The arbitrator could be somebody who practices family law and has a lot of experience, it could be a retired judge, or it could be anybody else that you mutually select.

The job of the arbitrator is to hear the contested issues and make a decision. I have conducted arbitrations and I participated as a representing a party in arbitrations.   An arbitration proceeding is a lot like court in terms of somebody else besides yourself and your ex are going to be making decisions about your case.   These sessions are more informal than court.  In the arbitration sessions that I participated in usually they take place in somebody's conference room.  There usually is a court reporter present but not always. There’s no gavel, there's no judicial assistance or bailiffs.   The arbitrator listens to testimony from each of the parties and it’s fairly informal.   Often the rules of evidence don't apply.   After listening to the evidence, the arbitrator makes a decision.  The arbitrator may not make decisions right then and there.  They usually do it on a shorter timeline than judges are able to do because of the thousands of cases that they're handling every year.

So, arbitrations are really good if you want quick results in your case and the issues are not hugely complex.   Arbitrations are sometimes really good if issues are calm clocks because sometimes an arbitrator will have special experience in a certain area that makes that person ideal to listen to the details of your case.   The thing to remember about arbitration is that you are putting decision-making about your case and you're handing power over and telling this person to decide based on what you hear in these two, three four-hour sessions or one-day session or two-day session.

That’s not ideal but if you want a quick result and you don't want to string things out over a year or two in court then maybe arbitration is the way to go.   That is the last form of alternative dispute resolution that I'm going to talk about in this video series.  I just want to say to you that a trial should be a last resort.  If I were going through a case like a divorce case or a child custody case, I would want to explore every alternative possible before putting my life in the hands of somebody else.   Again, sometimes it isn't possible to reach agreement especially if the other party is being really extra unreasonable and nothing you can say or do will convince them to resolve the situation. In that case all you can do is your best and get prepared, get your discovery done, follow the rules and play by the book.

But if you can settle even some of the issues outside of court you're going to be at an advantage because you're taking those decisions out of the judges’ hands.  I tell clients all the time that going to trial is like going to Vegas.  It’s like gambling you're your family's future.