Arbitration of family law matters including divorce claims and child custody is a growing trend in Texas. Concierge services are very popular and trendy for giving people a personalized experience tailored to their needs. Arbitration is the concierge court for divorce and child custody issues.
What is arbitration?
Family law arbitration is where spouses or parents agree to submit disputed issues regarding their separation or children to a neutral third party for a decision that will be binding and final. It is a combination of a contested negotiation and trial process. The parties remain free to settle issues between themselves through arbitration, but they also have a neutral third party to make a binding decision when the parties cannot agree. Arbitration provides a flexible concierge system to specifically resolve disputes.
Who should act as arbitrator?
Part of the agreement to submit to arbitration includes the selection of the arbitrator. While the arbitrator can really be anyone who has the consent of the parties, the best option for a family lawsuit is to choose a knowledgeable and experienced family law attorney who has been trained by a reputable organization in arbitration in the family law process. The American Academy of Marriage has the most prestigious training program in the United States for family law arbitrators. AAML arbitrators are specially trained in divorce arbitration and child custody arbitration.
(Michelle May O’Neill with O’Neil WysockiPC in Dallas, TX is an AAML-trained family law arbitrator who handles arbitration matters in person and remotely throughout Texas.)
Five reasons for arbitration in divorce and child custody cases.
There are many benefits to arbitration in matters of divorce and child custody.
- Choose an arbitrator with specific knowledge of your cases.
In the court system, the parties get stuck with the judge in a court that is chosen at random. This judge may not have experience with the particular disputes related to a particular case. Through arbitration, the parties can choose someone who is skilled and experienced in the specific issues related to their case. For example, if the dispute involves the assessment and division of marital property acts, the parties can choose an arbitrator who has dealt with divorce cases involving business disputes during her career.
- Arbitration is more efficient than court.
Arbitration is designed to speed up the divorce process while providing each party with an opportunity to present their case. Post-pandemic, the court system suffered a major backlog and elected justices are still sorting through their caseloads. This has led to years of delay in some courts to finalize the case. On the other hand, arbitration provides more than a concierge service as arbitration is more available to identify issues and reach final resolution faster than the courts. Temporary matters can be handled efficiently, and a final hearing is reached faster than in court.
- Arbitration is a private matter.
The traditional court system is a function of government that requires court hearings to be open to the public. Courts are also required to keep a record of the actions a person can request. Some couples may have reasons to keep things out of the public eye. For example, if both parties have a large net worth and a lot of assets, they may not want to make this information available to scammers. Also, high-profile people who attract public attention such as celebrities, influencers or athletes will not want to air their private affairs publicly. The public nature of the court system can also put children at risk of being victimized by bad guys. Arbitration is a private proceeding, held in a private location such as an office or conference room in a hotel. There is no kept record of the proceedings and the public cannot attend.
- Arbitration is less formal and intimidating.
Going to court can be scary and intimidating. There is a dress code that not many people are used to meeting. Judges can appear impatient and moody. Lawyers may treat the courtroom as a battleground, which stirs up animosities between the parties. But with arbitration, the parties can feel more comfortable having a meeting. Actions take a less formal tone and a more conversational approach to problem solving. Arbitration can be a gentler version of dispute resolution than the court system. Defending attorneys remains an important part of arbitration, just with fewer weapons and more cooperation. The arbitrator will hold an initial conference to lay out the issues and understand each side’s point of view before a final hearing takes place, making the process less about adversaries and more about dispute resolution.
- Arbitration is more flexible in the process than the courtroom.
Courts are bound by certain rules about how proceedings proceed. Many courts have also reverted to in-person procedures, causing parties to suffer downtime and increased attorneys’ fees for a day’s travel in court. When the courtroom is very far away from where the parties live and work, arbitration can be conducted anywhere, even via video conferencing, to provide flexibility to the parties, attorneys, and witnesses.
Are there any damages?
Arbitration has its drawbacks, too. Cost is the main barrier to arbitration. Because the arbitrator is a private individual, the parties must pay that person for his or her service just as they would pay their own attorney. Because the arbitrator may be chosen for his own experience or knowledge, he may charge as much or more than the attorneys representing the parties. Only the parties can weigh the need for a private and effective way to resolve their situation against the cost of the process.
Another downside of arbitration that is often cited is the fact that it is a binding process without review or appeal by a court or other person. The parties place a great deal of trust in the arbitrator to decide their cases once and for all. However, if the parties are concerned about an arbitrator breaking the law or failing to follow the law, they can build in an arbitration review process where a second arbitrator may be selected to review the award against the law for accuracy. This appeal arbitration remains a private proceeding outside the court system balancing the review process with the finality and appropriateness of the arbitration.
Is arbitration right for me?
Only the parties to a dispute can determine whether an arbitration process is appropriate for their situation. Because arbitration requires both parties to agree to a binding resolution process, the court system remains their only alternative if they cannot agree. But for many people who are looking for a private and more efficient way to get to the other side of their dispute, arbitration can be an ideal solution. With the selection of a highly trained and experienced arbitrator who is appropriate to the issues related to the case, the outcome can be more tailored to complex issues or the need for convenience in the outcome.