By Quinton Lister, legal assistant
I have mentioned in previous posts that I am interested in the field of alternative dispute resolution, or “ADR”.
What is ADR? Its any means of resolving a dispute without court action. If you have heard of mediation or arbitration, those are the two most common forms of ADR.
One branch of ADR that my boss has introduced me to is divorce arbitration-mediation or “divorce arb-med.” Divorce arb-med is what it sounds like, a divorce arbitration followed by a divorce mediation conference. The parties agree to have a neutral third party (in this case an experienced divorce attorney or retired judge or domestic relations commissioner) hear their case in an arbitration setting. After the neutral third party, serving as arbitrator, considers the evidence and hears the arguments presented by both sides of the case, the arbitrator will make a ruling on the issues being arbitrated, but that decision will be neither binding nor disclosed unless the parties fail to settle in the mediation session that follows after the arbitration hearing is completed.
In the mediation phase of arb-med, the parties have an opportunity to settle the case by agreement between them. If the parties reach a settlement agreement, their settlement agreement resolves the dispute and is binding upon the parties in lieu of the arbitration ruling.
I believe in arb-med because having experienced the turmoil that accompanies litigating divorce, I see how arb-med does a better job of addressing and resolving divorce conflicts. Every case subject to arb-med is resolved by the process, one way or another. If you don’t settle in mediation, the arbitrator’s decision disposes of the case. Arbitration gives each party a full and fair opportunity to tell his or her story and explain why he or she feels entitled to the relief sought in the divorce. Having done that first in the arbitration phase, they have a better appreciation for the strengths and weaknesses of both their own position and the position of their spouses. That translates into a far better prepared and more realistic approach to mediation and what a satisfactory negotiated settlement is. Does that make sense to you too?
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