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What Is Arbitration in a Michigan Divorce?

Divorces are often fraught with disagreement, but that’s only natural: Each party has ideas about certain aspects of their separation, such as how joint property should be divided and how time with children should be split. Building a life together includes working toward common goals, but separating that life back into two can be difficult and contentious.

One thing many couples can agree on, though, is that taking their divorce to trial is the least desirable outcome. Aside from the hassle and expenses involved, the last thing most people want is a judge deciding their future for them.

That said, if you and your spouse are struggling to reach a divorce settlement on your own, you may worry about how to avoid going to court to determine the outcome. Luckily, you can participate in different forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as arbitration, to figure things out.

What Is Alternative Dispute Resolution?

ADR includes methods by which disputes are resolved outside of court. There are several different legal forms of ADR, but for divorces, the most common are mediation and arbitration.

Many people are familiar with the concept of mediation, but you may not know what arbitration is, how it differs from mediation, or why it might be the best option for you and your spouse.

What Is Arbitration?

Arbitration is a process designed to settle a dispute that parties can’t come to an agreement about on their own. Typically, it is a type of ADR that involves each spouse consulting with their own lawyer and presenting their case to a third-party arbitrator as selected by the couple.

Arbitrators may be lawyers themselves, and it’s not uncommon for retired judges to act as arbitrators. The process will occur in a private setting with a more casual atmosphere than a courtroom, and the proceedings are confidential, with the final decision being legally binding.

Arbitration vs. Mediation

Arbitration lies somewhere between mediation and a court trial. Whereas a mediator works to help a couple resolve their disputes and come to an agreement on their overall divorce settlement, an arbitrator acts more like a judge.  Arbitration often follows unsuccessful mediation.

Each party will submit their case to the arbitrator, including evidence and legal arguments, and the arbitrator will then make a final ruling on specific matters, such as division of assets, spousal or child support, or child custody, which will then be submitted to the court as part of the divorce settlement.

The process of arbitration is, indeed, very similar to a court trial, but the difference is that arbitration typically requires less time and expenses; it also focuses on one or more areas of dispute instead of the overall divorce settlement.

Is Arbitration Right for Your Case?

The benefits of arbitration include expediency, privacy, reduced expenses, and the ability to choose an arbitrator with experience in a specific area of the law. The biggest potential drawback, though, is that the arbitrator’s decision is binding, which means — if you don’t like it — you have very little recourse for appeal.

If you are considering mediation or arbitration for your divorce case, contact the qualified team at Gucciardo Family Law to get the legal guidance and support you need.

Too much information?

We focus exclusively on family law matters so we are always available to answer your questions and help.

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