Divorce Mediation Blog

Why we need a family law arbitration law statute in Massachusetts

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Family law arbitration is a concept whose time is way, way overdue. Arbitration is the private, consensual submission of a dispute to a person whom the parties select and regulate by contract; and that person’s job is almost always to make a final and binding decision for the parties, instead of a judge after a public court trial. The parties pick their decision-maker, accounting for skill, integrity, convenience, cost and subject matter expertise. They choose their place. They set the timing. They define their own rules of procedure – or they may choose to apply traditional courtroom-type rules. They receive their decisions within the time that they direct in their agreement to arbitrate. And, it is all private. So, why isn’t every one doing it?

For one, most people simply do not know that this alternative exists. Its history is mostly in the commercial area of law, and only occasionally have family law attorneys tried arbitration. When they do, they love it. Second, it is not obvious that it makes sense to pay for a decision maker, when taxpayer dollars pay for judges to do that job. At one level this makes sense, but anyone who has spent any significant amount of time in the courts knows that the increased costs of representation by lawyers due to the inevitable inefficiencies of the public system can outweigh the costs of an arbitrator many times, and sometimes many times over.

Third, many lawyers are uncomfortable with the prospect of the process (most have not tried it) because most available arbitrators whom they know well and trust are competing litigators, and selecting a direct business competitor to arbitrate a case when you might be in court against the arbitrator that morning or the next day in another case can be uncomfortable for lawyers and clients alike. Finally, lawyers are leery of the fact that under existing law, all binding arbitration is truly final, and therefore, not subject to appeal, as is a judge-made decision. So, it feels risky to lawyers, as it is the last stop for the client without further litigation recourse.

To address some of the impediments to family law arbitration, several other states have enacting Family Law focused arbitration laws. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), of which Bill and Chouteau Levine are both longtime fellows, has created a model act (that is, a format that individual states may modify to meet their local needs and practices) for matrimonial arbitration. In turn, the Massachusetts Chapter of AAML has adapted that model act to Massachusetts’ needs, and is in the process of seeking support for its eventual submission to the Massachusetts legislature. Bill Levine of LDRC is leading that effort on behalf of AAML-MA. You can see the Proposed Family Law Arbitration Act here.

What questions or thoughts do you have about Family Law Arbitration?

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

Delivered by FeedBurner

other articles

recent posts


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