Family Law lawyers are now using arbitrations more and more to resolve disputes instead of proceeding to trials. Initially I was reluctant to recommend arbitration to my clients but now I am recommending it more often.
There is no real difference between an arbitration and a trial but there are some advantages to arbitration.
1) You get to select your judge. There are now several very experienced family law lawyers who have been trained as arbitrators and who are making excellent decisions.
2) You can schedule an arbitration much more quickly than a trial and usually within a month or two. You often have to wait 1 to 2 years to get a trial date.
3) An arbitrator will usually provide a decision much more quickly than a judge, usually within two to three weeks of the arbitration, a judge can take several months.
4) You can with the agreement of the other lawyer design the process to be more efficient. For example, you can agree to admit affidavit evidence instead of direct examination and simply have the witnesses attend for cross examination.
5) Arbitrators will typically hear evidence for 6 to 8 hours or longer each day. In court a judge only hears evidence for 4 hours each day.
6) It is possible to use a process called Mediation/Arbitration wherein you begin by having a mediation and if the parties are unable to reach an agreement the process is converted to an arbitration and the mediator becomes the arbitrator.
The main disadvantage is that you will have to pay an arbitrator their hourly rate (approximately $400 per hour) whereas you do not have to pay a judge but the cost is usually offset because the arbitration process is much more efficient and you will save money in legal fees.
Deborah A. Todd