March 1st, 2016 by Wanzer Edwards
In 2005, Indiana adopted the Family Law Arbitration Act to provide an alternative to “litigation as usual” in most kinds of family law cases. Why isn’t this the way cases that can’t get settled in mediation are reaching resolution? Perhaps it’s because most people don’t know enough about it. Here are the top 4 reasons you should be arbitrating your disputes:
- It’s Faster.
When you select an arbitrator, you are selecting a mediator or a family law attorney who presumably wouldn’t be accepting the case unless he or she had the time to devote to it. Rather than dealing with a congested court calendar which may result in getting the full day trial you need 6 months later, the arbitrator can likely hear the case within the next month or even within days. Work schedules for the parties and calendars for attorneys can be considered, resulting in no continuances of the hearing. Attorneys can agree on exhibits and testimony and relax the rules of evidence so as to avoid multiple witnesses at hearing. After the hearing, Indiana law requires that the arbitrator issue an order “not later than 30 days after the hearing,” which may be extended to 90 days, if both parties consent. This may mean that a dispute which would be raging for months, if not years, can often be managed in a few months.
As an added bonus, by cutting down the time between the initial filing and the hearing, and avoiding numerous continuances and perhaps bypassing witnesses, parties can expect to conserve attorney fees.
- It’s Private.
Unlike in the courtroom, there is no audience in the arbitration hearing room. All evidence which would be presented is confidential and will be kept by the arbitrator and returned to the parties afterwards. While there can be a recording made of the hearing, it is not a requirement, and testimony will be considered confidential. This means that if there are sensitive issues such as mental health problems, addictions and the like, the “gory details” surrounding them will never see the light of day and be part of the public record.
- It Gives You Options.
When you have a traditional hearing, it will be heard by the judicial officer in charge of that particular court. Attorneys can request changes of judge, but there are limits to the number of times and the timing that a change may be requested. With arbitration, attorneys can select an arbitrator based upon demeanor, gender, and specific experience. Are there complicated issues involving a family business, for example? Then a panel of arbitrators can be used so that there is an “expert” on the family law matters, and an expert on the business matters, rather than trying to educate the judge on everything and hope that the information was clearly delivered.
For some cases, the parties have reached a full settlement agreement but are concerned that their creative choice for how to divide assets, for example, may not be approved by the court. The arbitrator can approve the parties’ settlement agreement which then “shall” be accepted by the Court. Now the parties can craft the agreement that best meets the needs of their family, rather than worrying about following traditional court remedies.
- It’s More Comfortable.
Going to trial is usually not fun for anyone. Even walking into the courtroom or hearing room can cause some parties significant stress and anxiety, making an already stressful experience even worse. Arbitration hearings can be held at the office of the arbitrator or one of the attorneys, in the comfort of a conference room. The arbitrator can allow for breaks when needed, snacks and lunch as desired, and a more relaxed and calm atmosphere.
Think your case may need help from a decision-maker but don’t want to go to Court? Have your attorney contact WE Law to schedule your arbitration today.