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Mediation and Arbitration

If you have trouble talking to your spouse or for any reason you can't work out an agreement on the terms of your divorce, you should try mediation. It has a high success rate and can be very effective, even in cases with high conflict.

Mediation is not just for friendly divorces—angry, conflicted couples are especially in need of mediation and stand to gain the most, particularly if they have children.

In mediation, you commit to several sessions with a neutral professional who will help you talk and listen to each other, explore alternatives, develop options you haven't thought of, solve problems, and find your way to a sound solution that you can both agree to. Read below about who to choose.

If mediation fails, we recommend that you seriously consider taking your disagreement to binding arbitration, which is still much better and less expensive than fighting in court.

Arbitration, like court, is an adversarial proceeding where you present your facts and arguments to the arbitrator and a decision is imposed. This is far better than court because it is more informal and conducted in a conference room by a paid arbitrator instead of a judge. Binding arbitration is final on all issues but-as with decisions made by a judge-as facts change over time, courts are willing to review child custody and child support orders. The majority of couples will settle all issues and abide by the decision if they feel they've had their say and a fair shake.

ADR. Mediation and arbitration are often referred to as "alternative dispute resolution" (ADR). Either party can choose to be represented in mediation or arbitration.

Speed and privacy. Court hearings and records are open to the public, while ADR is private and discreet. More important, courts are very slow, complicated, expensive, and impersonal. If you were ever to end up there, the overworked judge won't know you or your family and won't have time or patience to learn much about you or your problems. Unlike court, when you choose a mediator, you can pick someone with a talent for conciliation who can take some time to explore options and solutions for your problems.

Choosing a mediator. In general, you want a family law attorney who primarily does mediation and only occasionally, if ever, takes cases to court. Using a family law attorney-mediator is especially important if your disagreements are about money, debts or property. However, if your problems are primarily a result of personal issues or about parenting, a non-attorney mediator with a lot of experience and a good reputation could be a reasonable choice.

Choosing an arbitrator. Your arbitrator should definitely be a family law attorney or a retired family court judge from your state. Legal knowledge and experience with the law is essential to conducting an arbitration correctly.

California cases—Divorce Helpline. The very talented attorneys at Divorce Helpline have vast experience with mediation, arbitration and private judging. They can help you at any of their 14 locations around the state. Call them at (800) 359-7004 and ask how they can help you.



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