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Arbitration

Arbitration is an alternative to trial where one or a panel of arbitrators renders a decision based on the case presented by each party.

Arbitration is an alternative to trial where one or a panel of arbitrators renders a decision based on the case presented by each party. Is arbitration like court where a judge issues a binding order? It depends. Specifically, arbitration may be binding or nonbinding upon the parties. If the parties agree to have binding arbitration, that means the parties are legally bound to the arbitrator’s decision on the contested issues. However, with a non-binding arbitration, each party is given the discretion to demand a trial within a specified period before the decision becomes binding.

How is Arbitration Different from Mediation? 

Arbitration is a bit more like court than mediation. In arbitration, arbitrators will hear arguments from both sides and render a decision for the parties. Conversely, mediation is where a neutral party (the mediator) facilitates a negotiation to settle the terms of the divorce. In mediation, both parties negoatiate for the terms they want. In arbitration, (especially binding arbitration) arbitrators decide the terms of the divorce for the parties. 

Who can be an Arbitrator?

To become a court registered and neutral arbitrator, an individual must be trained and meet certain requirements to become certified. In Florida, arbitrators are required to either be attorneys or experts in the field of the arbitration’s subject matter. In certain circumstances, arbitrators are required to have at least five years of experience as an  attorney. Since arbitration involves situations where an arbitrator will make decisions that have potentially lasting and long term effects on the parties, it is essential for the arbitrator to be experienced and knowledgeable on the subject matter.

 Practice Pointer - When can I use Arbitration?

Arbitration may be used to “enforce a prenuptial agreement to arbitrate a dispute in accordance with the law and tradition chosen by the parties.” F.S. § 61.052. However, arbitration is prohibited in all lawsuits involving child custody, visitation, alimony, or child support. Toiberman v. Tisera, 998 So.2d 4 (2008); F.S. § 44.104(14). Therefore, arbitration will likely not be utilized unless the couple only wishes to adjudicate the issue of equitable division of property and debts.

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