Family law arbitration is a means for families to settle disputes outside of a traditional courtroom setting. Rather than hiring an attorney to settle matters that arise, families call on a trained third-party professional, called an arbitrator, to decide on the outcome of the family’s dispute.
The Role of a Family Law Arbitrator
Family law arbitrators are trained to handle a variety of disputes. Some matters they may handle are child support or spousal support, property disagreements between couples going through a divorce, and custody battles. The role of an arbitrator in deciding custody battles is usually determined on a state-by-state basis. While there are many disputes that family law arbitrators can legally settle, there are some that they cannot. Unlike a Westfield lawyer, family law arbitrators cannot grant divorces, adoptions, guardianships, or terminate parenting rights.
Who Decides the Arbitrator?
Both parties must agree to hire an arbitrator to settle their dispute. The arbitrator is usually either a retired judge or a family law attorney, although the arbitrator has many of the same powers as a judge during the arbitration process. During arbitration, the arbitrator may appoint expert witnesses if needed, issue subpoenas, examine the evidence, hear testimony, interview children, and even make a final decision called issuing an award. Unlike a judge, however, the arbitrator does not have the power to enforce the award. A court must appoint an award issued by an arbitrator. After the court issues the award, few rights are available for the opposing party to appeal the decision. The limited rights of appeal are considered to be a downside of arbitration for some, as is the limitation on modifying child custody in most states.
Why Choose Arbitration?
For many families, arbitration has many benefits over hiring a traditional family law attorney in Westfield. For starters, arbitration is a private matter. Hearings take place in private settings rather than a courtroom, which is open for the public. Additionally, arbitration is generally a faster way to settle disputes. The outcome of an arbitration is often reached more quickly than a hearing in court. Arbitration hearings are often more flexible as well, and they can usually be scheduled at a convenient time for both parties. Lastly, arbitration is often less expensive than hiring an attorney. Both parties still have to pay for the professional’s time, but they do not have to pay the legal fees associated with hiring two different attorneys to settle their case.