Understanding Divorce Arbitration

When standing on the threshold of a divorce, one daunting prospect is figuring out the legalities of moving forward and figuring out how to come to decisions effectively amid personal stress and struggles.

One process of navigating these waters is divorce arbitration, which is defined by CustodyZen as an “alternative dispute resolution process in family law that involves a third-party listening to both sides of a divorce-related dispute, then making a binding decision that the parties will have to abide to.”

Arbitration is used in many areas of law and has seen increased use in family law among divorce lawyers as an alternative to the a traditional courtroom format. In divorce arbitration, the third party, known as the arbitrator, is selected and agreed upon by the couple, sometimes with help or advice from their attorneys. Both parties must also agree to the rules of the arbitration before negotiations begin.

This method is effective especially when disagreeing spouses are at an impasse which stalls the finalization of the divorce. Each party can present their case and supporting evidence to the arbitrator so they are fully informed of the needs and interests of both sides when formulating their decision on the disputed subject(s).

Divorce arbitration can deal with the same issues as other divorce methods such as custody, child support, parental visitation, etc.

Differences Between Arbitration, Mediation, and Litigation

On the spectrum of divorce methods, arbitration is, for lack of a better phrase, the “happy medium” between a formal court litigation and an informal mediation.

Perhaps the most informal of all the methods involving a third party is that of divorce mediation, which is exactly what you would think it would be: a divorce where the spouses negotiate terms with one another via the help of a mediator.

Unlike arbitration where the third-party arbitrator ultimately make the final decision, divorce mediation aims to aid the couple in reaching an agreement themselves without the need for court. However, such amicable agreements between divorcing parties are not always possible in some circumstances, thus the applicability of arbitration and eventually litigation if the conflict is escalated enough.

Mediation is only effective if both spouses are able to communicate and interact peaceable enough to come to an agreement or compromise.

Litigation is the most formal of these three methods, involving courtrooms, judges, and lots of time and legal fees. Similarly to verdicts from a judge during litigation, decision of an arbitrator in resolving disputed issues are final and legally binding.

Decisions made in litigation divorce courts can be appealed to a judge which contrasts with the decisions made by arbitrators, which are as legally binding but cannot be appealed. This is due in part to the fact that both parties had to agree when choosing the arbitrator and also agree on the rules of the proceedings.

Benefits of Divorce Arbitration

Arbitration is private, convenient, and final; it is a secure and efficient way to navigate the divorce process without having to go to court. Since arbitration is more informal than litigations, it often less stressful and more conducive to open conversation and quicker conflict resolution.

This process is not only more cost effective without the added expenses of a trial and other legal fees but also potentially less emotionally distressing on the family, especially when children are involved.

There are several other benefits of divorce arbitration as opposed to mediation or litigation, such as flexible scheduling with the judge and other parties (unlike divorce trials which are fixed by the judge and courts involved) and the option to select an arbitrator who is experienced in an area relevant to the personal circumstances (i.e. estate finances, child custody, taxes, etc.).


Divorces are never easy and can be tough to navigate both legally and emotionally. Understanding the legal processes and the different options out there, such as divorce arbitration, can not only help optimize one’s time and finances but can help divorcing parties get the proper assistance they need for their situation.  Contact us at Pond Law Group for more information or to schedule a consultation.

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