It is possible that you may have heard mediation and arbitration spoken of interchangeably with no intended difference between them. However, if you are exploring alternatives to going to a New Jersey court for an upcoming divorce, you should recognize that the concepts of mediation and arbitration, while they are distinct from court litigation, are not the same. Each of these forms of divorce resolution carries specific attributes that, depending on your needs, you may find more attractive over the other.
FindLaw points out that the structure of arbitration and mediation can be very different. Arbitration usually involves a decision made by a panel of arbitrators while mediation is typically conducted with a single mediator. Arbitration is generally employed when the two spouses cannot come to an agreement or feel they are unlikely to, so each spouse will select an arbitrator. From there, the two arbitrators will choose a third arbitrator, completing a council of three arbitrators to work out the problems of the spouses.
Perhaps the most important difference is that decisions produced by arbitration are generally binding. If there are three arbitrators involved, they will consider the evidence presented by the spouses and vote on a decision. Mediators, on the other hand, are not judges. They help the parties involved to come to a mutually agreed upon decision but they do not impose solutions if the divorcing spouses cannot come up with one.
It is helpful to think of arbitration as a less formal trial. Entrepreneur.com explains that arbitrations may even cost as much as court trials. The chief benefits of arbitration are that you get to pick the arbitrators, decide where your case is heard, and enjoy the same privacy afforded by mediation. However, as stated earlier, arbitration is usually binding. It will be difficult to appeal the decision if you are not satisfied.
Both of these avenues to ending a marriage carry their own benefits but should be thought of as different from each other. Every divorcing couple has particular needs which may or may not be best met by mediation or arbitration. Couples who are trying to decide how to resolve their differences can seek counsel from a professional divorce attorney to make an informed choice.