If mediation or negotiation has not resolved your dispute, you may want to consider arbitration. Arbitration involves a private, neutral person (or persons, in some instances) make what usually amounts to a final decision on your case. Arbitration saves money when compared to litigation, but can still involve significant fees and expenses, especially if a panel of arbitrators is used.
Arbitration is normally binding, although non-binding arbitration exists and is similar to a case evaluation. When an arbitrator makes a decision it is called an award. By binding, it means that the parties agree in advance to accept the decision of the arbitrator.
Commercial and Civil Arbitration
Arbitration is definitely not just for divorce cases. In fact, arbitration has a longer history as applied to commercial and other civil conflicts, such as contract disputes, consumer disputes, and employment matters. When you buy a car or many other items for that matter, you are usually agreeing to arbitration in the event of a dispute and that you’ll even pay for a portion of the cost. Do you wish you read that fine print now?
For issues involving technically complex details, arbitration may be a good choice since the parties and their counsel and have input in selecting the arbitrator.
Divorce Arbitration (Private Trial)
In the context of a Massachusetts divorce, arbitration is worth considering if you and your spouse are unable to agree on one or more issues, such as dividing retirement assets or determining what parenting schedule is going to be best for your kids. Massachusetts law requires that a Probate and Family Court judge review and approve the arbitrator’s decision before it becomes part of the court’s judgment. It is also important to remember that any issues surrounding children are subject to a future modification by the court. An arbitrator’s findings relevant to child-related issues are presented to the court as recommendations, which the court would then review and approve. Unless the court found a serious problem with the arbitration Award, such awards are routinely upheld by the court.
Before diving into arbitration, the parties to a divorce and their lawyers will sign an arbitration agreement. This agreement to arbitrate may become part of a court order, requiring the parties to complete the arbitration and then accept the decision of the arbitrator.
Arbitration is less formal than court, and the arbitrator can ask questions to help learn about the details and review other information provided, such as financial records. Arbitration occurs in a closed and private conference room as opposed to an open courtroom. Due to the large caseload at the Probate and Family Courts in Massachusetts, arbitration provides a faster resolution. Although it seems strange, sometimes a trial may be spread out over many months, adding to the amount of preparation for attorneys and higher legal costs for litigants. Thus if mediation and the collaborative divorce process are not options, you may want to talk to your lawyer about arbitration.
Please call Next Phase Legal LLC at (508) 359-4043 for more information about arbitration, whether it is related to divorce, family law, business, or another matter.
Arbitrators and arbitration in Walpole, Medfield, Westwood, Boston, Norwood, Franklin, Medway, Norfolk, Dedham, Canton, Wellesley, Millis, and Dover, MA areas.