781.708.4445

info@levinedisputeresolution.com

Divorce Mediation Blog

What is Family Law Arbitration?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Family law arbitration is a concept whose time is way, way overdue. But, what is it?

Arbitration is the private, consensual submission of a dispute to a person (the arbitrator) whom the parties select and regulate by contract. The arbitrator’s job is to make a decision (called an “award”) that is usually final, instead of a judge in a public trial in court trial. Arbitration generally is regulated by a state statute called the Massachusetts Uniform Arbitration Act (“MUAA”). The MUAA was created for business. It encourages companies and the people and other companies with whom they do business, to look outside of the courts for cost-efficient, expeditious, private and final resolution of disputes. The business world embraced this approach, and business arbitration is very common.

Over the years, as the Probate and Family Courts have become more difficult, less efficient and more costly to navigate to conclusion, individuals and their divorce lawyers have occasionally looked to arbitration as an alternative to court. As a result of people doing this, a small body of law has developed here. The appellate courts have generally looked favorably on this remedy, which after all, helps to divert cases from an overburdened public court system. The MUAA, which is called a “commercial” law, has been applied to family law in ways that are somewhat oblique. We will discuss this in a later blog entry, when we take up “Why We Need a Family Law Arbitration Statute”.

Here’s how Family Law Arbitration works. The parties pick their arbitrator. Arbitrators are usually experienced lawyers, including retired judges. The parties choose someone whom they and/or their lawyers believe has skills, reputation for integrity and expertise. The ability to pick an arbitrator based on his or her skill sets is unique to arbitration as compared to court, where judges are assigned to cases at random. Every judge has to be a “generalist” because he or she needs to hear every kind of case that finds its way into court.

After selecting the arbitrator, the parties and the lawyers themselves decide what part of their case will go to the arbitrator, which can be any part or all of it. They choose the time of the hearing. They decide the rules and information that will be used. The procedures can be as formal as court, or decidedly more relaxed. The parties direct the arbitrator when they want a decision to be made. They define the scope and kind of decision that the arbitrator will make. Finally, they agree on where the hearing will take place.

When the hearing occurs, the parties have the arbitrator’s sole attention: no emergencies intrude as happens in the courtroom. Even the length of the lunch break is determined by the parties themselves. If the parties want to have a long day, they do; if they prefer a shorter day, that is their decision, too. When the decision comes, it is within the time demanded by the parties.

Why doesn’t everyone who cannot settle by lawyer –to – lawyer negotiation, or mediation, use arbitration instead of public court trial? We will examine that question in a later blog entry.



Get e-mail notifications of new blog posts! Enter email address below.:



Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles


recent posts


tags

self-adjusting alimony divorce mediator med-arb Divorce fraud separation special master divorce and family law DOMA Same Sex Marriage alimony Alimony Reform Act mediations divorce judgment divorce arbitrator divorce litigation Baseball Players IRC §2704 Massachusetts lawyers mediation Levine Dispute Resolutions divorce mediation The Seven Sins of Alimony divorce mediators divorce agreement health insurance how baseball arbitration works litigation lawyer Massachusetts Massachusetts divorce mediators Matrimonial Arbitration pre-ARA alimony facilitated negotiations Massachusetts alimony and child support family law arbitrators alimony law Child Support Guidelines traditional negotiations alimony statute Baseball COLA annulment conciliation divorced Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act divorce arbitration support orders Massachusetts alimony dispute resolution child support Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly arbitration Boston Major League Baseball Arbitration Act Reforming Alimony in the Commonwealth Baseball Arbitration alimony reform legislation Levine Dispute Resolution lawyer-attended mediation General term alimony Self-adjusting alimony orders arbitrator family and probate law disputes lawyers health coverage divorce and family law mediators LDRC mediators Levine Dispute Resolution Center LLC Massachusetts divorce lawyers rehabilitative alimony Uniform Arbitration Act family law arbitrator Divorce Agreements family law mediation med/arb high-risk methodology resolve disputes medical benefits Chouteau Levine divorce arbitrators private dispute resolution disputes divorce process mediator family law family support SJC alimony orders Cohabitation divorce mediations Levine Dispute Resolution Center Obamacare arbitrators MLB labor agreement Defense of Marriage Act family mediation Family Law Arbitration divorce lawyers