Advantages and Disadvantages of Connecticut Divorce Arbitration
ADVANTAGES OF DIVORCE ARBITRATION
Divorce arbitration is not suitable for every case. For parties that cannot agree on basic, fundamental issues, arbitration may be a non-starter. But for couples with little acrimony who would like a more efficient and private resolution to their divorce-related matters, arbitration may be just the thing they need. There are some distinct advantages to arbitration.
Arbitration is not free, and many parties retain attorneys; however, there may be cost savings in selecting arbitration instead of a full-blown, protracted trial.
Arbitration takes place in a private agreed-upon location. What is discussed throughout the arbitration is confidential and shielded from the prying eyes typically present in open court.
Because the parties must agree upon the issues they wish to be arbitrated, arbitration typically takes less time than litigation.
While the arbitrator’s decision is binding, the parties get to control who the arbitrator will be, the issues being arbitrated, and the location of the arbitration. None of that would be possible in litigation.
DISADVANTAGES OF DIVORCE ARBITRATION
While it is true that arbitration has some advantages in certain cases, it is not ideal for all situations. There are some disadvantages to arbitration.
The Arbitrator’s Decision Can Be Wrong
While many arbitrators are competent, they still make mistakes. The law limits the parties’ ability to challenge or appeal an arbitrator’s decision. As a result, the parties may be stuck with an erroneous or flawed decision made by the arbitrator.
Arbitration Only Works If The Parties Are Reasonable
Divorce can elicit strong emotional and often illogical reactions. Where this attitude is present, divorces typically cannot benefit from arbitration as it requires an agreement to enter into and an agreement on who the arbitrator will be.
Arbitrators Must Be Paid
Unlike a judge presiding over a trial, the arbitrator must be paid for their time. Typically, their fee is billed hourly. For complex and time-consuming cases, this can result in thousands of dollars.
Arbitration Is Limited To Specific Issues
Unlike litigation, only the issues that the parties agree to resolve through arbitration can be decided. This can require a couple to engage in multiple forms of dispute resolution, lengthening the overall time required to resolve all divorce-related issues.
SOME DO’S AND DON’TS OF ARBITRATION
Agreeing to enter arbitration is merely the beginning of the process. Because both sides must agree on how the arbitration will be conducted and who will conduct it, some gamesmanship may occur before the process begins in earnest. The parties will need to agree on the rules of arbitration, and in doing so, there are things that one party may wish to forbid to gain a tactical advantage. Similarly, a party may look to include specific evidence that may produce a satisfactory outcome. Applicable throughout the entire arbitration process, some dos and don’ts can aid in producing a fair yet favorable arbitration decision.
Do Your Research
It would be unwise to assume that the arbitrator will be fair and impartial without conducting research. Just like some judges are known to favor one side consistently, some arbitrators can also have a reputation for being one-sided. Retaining an experienced family lawyer plugged into the network of divorce arbitrators will aid in ensuring that you select the best arbitrator to handle your case. Remember, the arbitrator’s decision is not only binding but also difficult to appeal, so selecting a suitable arbitrator is paramount.
Do Discovery Before Arbitration Begins
The discovery process is designed to allow the parties to access evidence that will help prove their case. Without this evidence, it can be challenging to get a clear picture of the parties’ income and assets. Requiring that a complete and thorough discovery process occur before arbitration begins can ensure that the arbitrator can make an informed and just decision. Without it, assets may be hidden, and one side can miss out on what they are entitled to under the law.
Don’t Lose Decorum
It is common for either party to give testimony during an arbitration. If this happens, the arbitrator may base their decision on the party’s credibility. The arbitrator may view a party that becomes combative or disrespectful in a negative light. If this happens, it can affect the outcome of the divorce. This is especially true if issues like child custody are being decided. Maintaining composure and respect for the arbitrator and opposing counsel throughout the process is always recommended.
Don’t Conceal Or Attempt To Deceive
Again, the arbitrator’s decision may come down to whom they believe more. If it can be shown that either side attempted to conceal evidence or deceive the arbitrator, then that will not bode well when it comes time for a decision to be made. Arbitrators are often retired judges and can sense when a party is being disingenuous or attempting to mislead them. Full, unfettered cooperation and participation in the proceedings are required, and any attempt to run afoul of that mandate will likely have dire consequences.
Complex divorce matters may require multiple arbitration sessions that can last for hours. In addition to the duration of the arbitration itself, it may take even more time for the arbitrator to make a decision. While one of the benefits of arbitration is the time savings over other forms of dispute resolution, the results are not automatic, and the parties are well-advised to be patient. Rushing the process along will benefit no one, and the time it takes to come to a fair and full decision where all relevant evidence is considered may be longer than anticipated.