With mutual consent, arbitration can be used to settle disputes both big and small between the two parties to a domestic dispute. The parties usually split the cost of the arbitrator. Here are some pointers to remember about why arbitration is worth considering in your case:
❑ Arbitrate anything. Other than the granting of a divorce, an arbitrator can do just about everything that a judge can do – custody, visitation, child support, alimony and equitable distribution. We can even use arbitration for decisions in disputes that involve just a part of a case, such as decisions in a joint custody dispute or valuation of items of personal property.
❑ No courtroom. The hearings are held outside the courthouse at a place of the parties’ own choosing. Usually this is in the conference room of one of the lawyers’ offices. Privacy is ensured; there is no audience of onlookers and the atmosphere is comfortable and less formal than a courtroom.
❑ You pick the decision-maker. Instead of having the court system pick the judge for you, as in many judicial districts, the parties and their lawyers can actually choose who will decide their case. They frequently will choose a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers or a Family Law Specialist who is certified as an arbitrator, giving them a “judge” with the knowledge and expertise — in family law and arbitration — to handle the case properly. In fact, the arbitrator doesn’t even have to be a lawyer — you can choose an arbitrator whose background matches that of your case. If it’s a visitation arbitration, why not try a psychologist or social worker? If the case involves a difficult business valuation, appoint a CPA or an economist.
❑ Efficiency. Efficiency means saving time and money — and making smart use of the money and time you have. With arbitration we don’t have to wait for the calendar to be printed and the court administrator to set your case for a hearing several months down the line. We don’t have to show up for calendar call and then sit around and wait for the case to be heard – assuming it isn’t “bumped” by another case. Ours is the only case on the docket! We get to choose the date and the time with most arbitrators, and there isn’t a 30-60 day wait to get on the docket, either. Most of the time we can set a case on for an arbitration within two to four weeks of the request. All of that translates into ‘money efficiency’ for the client. It usually costs a client less money if the case is concluded promptly. That’s just what arbitration can do. There are none of the delays associated with ‘going to court.’ You’ll probably find that the money we save more than pays for the cost of the arbitrator, which is usually split 50-50 between the parties.
❑ Preparation. Preparation means we can take the case in stages if it’s one with several issues, and setting up into separate hearings on different days. This gives us time to prepare separately for each one. In a custody case, we could deal with school issues on Monday, the psychologist’s testimony on Wednesday, mom’s issues on Friday and dad’s issues the following Tuesday. With an equitable distribution case, we can separately hear the issues of valuation, classification and distribution at different times, or we can put on evidence on separate dates as to the home, the spouse’s business, the pension, and the personal property.
❑ Flexibility. There’s much more flexibility available when the case is arbitrated, instead of tried in court. You don’t have to stop at 5 p.m., which is when the courtroom closes down. You can work through lunch if you want. In fact, with the agreement of the parties and the arbitrator, the case can be heard in the evenings so that the parties don’t have to take off time from work, or even on a Saturday. Try doing that in district court!
PREPARED BY SULLIVAN & GRACE, P.A, RALEIGH, NC. THIS PAMPHLET MAY BE REPRINTED WITH ACKNOWLEDGMENT.