While it is common in Florida family law cases for parties to resolve their differences through mediation, it is less usual in the U.S. for them to resort to arbitration. Arbitration is considered one type of an alternative dispute resolution method, frequently used in other types of civil actions, that serves as an alternative to a judicial proceeding. Many different kinds of legal contracts include a clause by which the parties agree to submit any disagreements to an arbitration panel for decision. Recently, in the United States as well as in Britain and Canada, there has been a movement toward providing arbitration as a means of settling disagreements in the family law context. In the future, arbitration may become a more common option for parties to a family law conflict.
What is Family Law Arbitration?
There has been a recent interest in the U.S. in examining the use of arbitration to resolve family law matters. The Uniform Law Commission (ULC), a state-sponsored organization made up of lawyer-members that works for the uniformity and clarity of critical areas of state laws, is currently working on a Family Law Arbitration Act. The proposed legislation will help facilitate the use of arbitration as a method of resolving certain family law disputes. According to the proposed act, parties will contractually agree to submit their family law conflict to an arbitrator. They will select and pay for the arbitrator themselves. Unlike commercial arbitration in which the decision of the arbitrator is final except for limited judicial review, in family law arbitration there will be greater opportunity for court review of custody and support orders. As a private rather than a public judicial process, the proceeding as well as any award may be kept confidential.
Arbitration versus Mediation
There are several aspects of arbitration that distinguish it from mediation, another form of ADR (“Alternative Dispute Resolution”) commonly utilized in the Florida family law context. In mediation, the parties come to a mutually agreeable decision, while in arbitration, the decision of the arbitrator is binding. Also, mediation may be ordered by the court, while the decision to arbitrate is made by the parties. Mediators are typically certified and can be provided by the court system as well, subject to the payment of a fee. Arbitrators are generally private individuals who are independent of the court.
Arbitration has several advantages over court adjudication of disputes. It typically is faster and more flexible in its approach. As an essentially private form of dispute resolution, it can be held completely confidential. Parties have more control over the proceedings in terms of how and when they occur and who the arbitrator will be. There is no court calendar to submit to, and the parties can decide the scope of the arbitration. As a speedier alternative to court proceedings, arbitration also has a cost-saving advantage.
Currently, Florida does not provide for arbitration in the family law context, but if trends abroad and in the U.S continue, this may well change.
Regardless of which method of dispute resolution is involved, parties to any type of family law matter are well-advised to seek counsel from a reputable Florida Family Law Attorney. James S. Cunha, Esq. is an experienced and highly knowledgeable West Palm Beach family law attorney who has received a client rating of 5 out of 5 (“Preeminent”) on Martindale.com and a 10 out of 10 (“Superb”) on Avvo.com. If you are interested in learning more about your legal options, contact the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. now at 1 (800) 558-1227 or locally at (561) 429-3924.