Family Law Arbitration

The last post covered an overview of Mediation. Let’s turn to mediation’s more decisive “buddy”, Arbitration.


Arbitration is another form of ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution). Like mediators, the arbitrator is a neutral party that is not on anyone’s “side”. The arbitrator does not have to be an attorney, but almost always is.

Arbitration can be governed by private contract of the parties. In North Carolina, arbitration issues related to divorce typically fall under the North Carolina Family Law Arbitration Act.

There is no state-wide certification process for arbitrators, so you want to make sure anyone chosen has experience with the law and the subject matter of whatever you are trying to arbitrate. Otherwise, the decision may not be in line with your expectations. There are organizations that have their own certifications, such as the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers:

There are advantages for participants in an arbitration, including:


  • The arbitration is a private trial.
  • Except for confirming the award, the exhibits and evidence are not part of public record.
  • The arbitrator cannot meet privately with each party and their attorney. All proceedings must be in joint sessions.


  • The arbitration dates are selected by the parties rather than imposed by the court system. This lets parties be flexible about travel dates, witnesses, and the need for extra time.
  • The arbitrator can rule on as many or as few issues as you put before that person. For example, if the only issue you want to address is child support, the arbitrator will not make rulings on custody.
  • The arbitration can “relax” the rules of evidence and formalities that are required in a court proceeding, if all parties agree. This allows for a speedier examination of the evidence.

 Speed and Limited Oversight:

  • Typically, the amount of time it takes an arbitrator to rule on preliminary issues is much quicker than the court system.
  • The arbitrator will make a ruling in the case at the conclusion of the evidence. The resolution does not have to be based on the ability of all parties to reach an agreement. This means there will be closure, one way or another.
  • The arbitrator is still governed by the laws of the state. However, the decision is difficult to overturn.

 Arbitration is a solid way to resolve your dispute when you know the other side will never reach an agreement. While there is cost involved in hiring an arbitrator, parties can save costs in bypassing the inefficiencies of the court system.

 Next up: Collaborative Law