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Divorce Litigation vs. Arbitration

If you are considering divorce, you may have visions of a lengthy, harrowing divorce trial. If you choose to go through with arbitration, your divorce proceedings may be over more quickly. However, settlements reached through arbitration usually cannot be appealed. Read about some of the advantages and disadvantages to both divorce arbitration and divorce litigation before making your decision.

Arbitration is a form of resolving disputes where you and your spouse hire an arbitrator to hear both sides of your dispute and reach a binding decision. Arbitration is similar to litigation because both processes involve a type of judge who hears both sides of the dispute and then reaches a decision. Arbitration, however, is a private dispute resolution process that occurs outside the courts.

Divorce Arbitration Advantages

  • Speed. In a traditional courtroom divorce proceeding, you may have to wait for months to get a trial. In divorce arbitration, once you and your spouse, the attorneys and arbitrator can agree on a date, you can begin the divorce proceedings.
  • Convenience. You can schedule arbitration for when it best works for you, including evenings, which is an option you don't have in a courtroom divorce.
  • Privacy. Arbitration takes place in an attorney's conference room, with no spectators watching. The events are usually off the record, other than custody and child support issues.
  • Flexible and informal. You and your spouse can set your rules as well as what the arbitrator will be deciding.
  • Less expensive. Because the arbitration process is more informal and shorter than the litigation process, you won't have to pay for your lawyer waiting around a courtroom for your case to be called.
  • Finality. The grounds to appeal arbitration are much more limited than litigation, so arbitration usually ends the process.

Divorce Arbitration Disadvantages

  • That finality can also be a disadvantage, because if you end up with an outcome you do not like, you cannot appeal.
  • You can only arbitrate if both parties agree to it.
  • If your spouse does not obey the arbitrator's order, you may still have to go to court.
  • Arbitration can be more expensive than an easily-negotiated settlement, but it will probably be less expensive than a trial.

Advantages to Divorce Litigation

  • Decisions can be appealed. If you are unhappy with the outcome, there is an appeals process you can go through.
  • You can have your arguments heard in court.

Disadvantages to Divorce Litigation

  • Not only are the trials open to the public, all documents filed with the court are also public.
  • Trials can be very long. If the court is very busy, your case may start and stop often.
  • It can be a very expensive endeavor.
  • Judges can be inflexible, and you must obey the court's rules. Also, the judge will dictate the terms of your settlement.