In the universe of divorce options, arbitration stands in the middle between court litigation and mediation. It bears some resemblance to both choices but is not quite the same as either one. With arbitration, you can expect greater control over your divorce proceeding than you would in a Pennsylvania court, but less than you would with mediation. If you are exploring divorce arbitration as an option, you may also wonder if you should hire an attorney to help you through the process.
Money Crashers points out some important similarities to litigation that make hiring an attorney a wise decision. In divorce arbitration, you are presenting a case before an arbitrator who will make a binding decision, not unlike what would occur in a courtroom. You would also have to respond, if necessary, to claims made by your spouse during the arbitration. Additionally, arbitration proceeds with more formal rules than mediation. You would likely need the help of an attorney for all of these functions.
So why choose arbitration over a judicial proceeding if they seem so similar? Couples generally pick arbitration because it is a more informal process than going to court and it allows them to conceal personal information from the public record. Arbitration permits couples to work out issues like child support, child custody, property and assets owned by the spouses while keeping unwanted personal details from being exposed.
Additionally, arbitrations tend to proceed more quickly than court litigation. If you are looking to get the divorce over with as fast as you can, having an arbitrator decide the matter can speed things up. Keep in mind that you also have to pay a fee for the arbitrator, which could increase your expenses in the short term. Conversely, not dragging the matter out in court may save you money in the future.
As Findlaw points out, the stakes are higher in arbitration than mediation since an arbitrator has the authority to hand down a binding decision. For this reason, couples who want to mutually work out a divorce agreement should consider mediation since a mediator cannot impose any solutions. However, if you feel you and your spouse cannot come to an accord, arbitration may work out better. Since arbitration solutions are binding, it makes it even more important to retain legal counsel as you work through the process.