Arbitration is when parties use a trained neutral person that they select to settle disputes rather than a judge.  Family law arbitration has been available in Indiana since 2005 for divorce cases, to establish child support, custody or parenting time and to modify a decree, judgment or order.  In most cases the arbitration participants meet in a conference room with an arbitrator who listens to the dispute and then makes or suggests a decision.

Advantages to arbitration are that parties can select an arbitrator with expertise in family law matters and a desire to hear family law issues.  The arbitrator acts in the same way a judge would, making decisions on all or some of the pending issues.  The arbitration hearing is private and not open to the public.  The hearing is also scheduled at a time and for a duration that meets the needs of the parties and works with the schedules of the attorneys.  For people needing a quick decision arbitration can provide answers sooner than a hearing that the Court would be able to schedule, as Court time may not be available for months, especially if a multi-day hearing is needed.

An arbitration can also help the parties reach resolution much sooner than a traditional hearing, as the arbitrator must issue a written decision within 30 days, unless the parties agree to allow additional time.  This is much sooner than many court orders, and allows the parties to return to a place of co-parenting or move on with their lives much sooner. Even though it is an order from an arbitrator, if the parties agreed to binding arbitration, the order is still filed with the court and may be appealed just like an order from the trial court.

Arbitration can be non-binding.  The parties may elect to engage in non-binding arbitration if they want to test how a neutral decision maker like a judge may view their respective positions on certain issues.  It can be a “trial run” for the parties, which, if the outcome is unpleasant for both parties, can help lead to settlement.

Arbitration can also be useful if the parties have engaged in mediation and have worked out an agreement on nearly everything, but are unable to resolve one or more issues.  Rather than waiting for a hearing date, the parties can actually be at mediation and can contact an arbitrator over the phone to schedule time for an arbitration hearing while they are still sitting at the mediator’s office.  The parties have a real “end date” for their dispute, and can know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

There is a cost associated with hiring an arbitrator, but it is similar to that of a mediator with additional time for the drafting of an order.  However, the time spent may be well worth it for the convenience and ability to select the right person to hear the pending family law issues, and the speed at which a resolution will be received.

For more information or to hire an arbitrator, contact Wanzer Edwards.