Why should parties consider arbitration as an alternative to proceeding to trial in family law matters?
Many people often try to avoid going to trial for family law matters in light of the fact that trial is costly, family law topics are personal matters, and trial can take months, if not years. Arbitration is an alternative option to trial with many benefits, including the fact that they are able to have their matter heard before a neutral-third party, but not in the rigid courtroom forum.
Under N.J.S.A. §2A-23B-15, an arbitrator as the power to “to hold conferences with the parties to the arbitration proceeding before the hearing and, among other matters, determine the admissibility, relevance, materiality, and weight of any evidence.”
A few other benefits to arbitration are:
- Cost: Unlike submitting documents to the Court, there are no filing fees associated with arbitration. So while, you are responsible to pay the arbitrators fee, you save on court filing fees.
- Confidential: Family law matters are personal in nature, unlike Court proceedings and Court Orders, arbitration awards and proceedings are not public. A transcript of arbitration proceedings are still kept, however, it is not available to the public. This can be a deciding factor for family law matter where personal business dealings may be used against one party.
- Time: With scheduling a trial, attorneys and litigants have very little say. Scheduling is controlled by the Court’s busy calendar and trials often get adjourned for other matters. Arbitration is structured around the arbitrator’s schedule, the attorneys’ schedule, and the litigant’s schedule, rather than the Courthouse’s schedule.
It must be noted that one party may not force the other party to arbitrate; both parties must agree to arbitrate and there must be a clear record of the agreement to arbitrate. Said agreement must include:
- That the parties understand their entitlement to a judicial adjudication of their dispute and are willing to waive that right;
- That the parties are aware of the limited circumstances under which a challenge to the arbitration award may be advanced and agree to those limitations;
- That the parties have had sufficient time to consider the implications of their decision to arbitrate; and
- That the parties have entered into the arbitration agreement freely and voluntarily, after due consideration of the consequences of doing so.
See Fawzy v. Fawzy, 199 N.J. 456, , 482, 973 A.2d 347 (2009).
If you or someone you know has a question about whether arbitration is a viable option for their matter, then please call the skilled divorce lawyers in New Jersey at Lyons & Associates. For a private consultation, contact us online or call our offices at 908-575-9777. The attorneys at Lyons & Associates have substantial expertise in such matters as this office exclusively focuses its practice on family law and family law related issues.
Written by: Sara E. Kucsan, Esq.