Arbitration is like litigation in that the parties outsource the decision-making of their issues to a third party. That, however, is where the similarity ends. Unlike litigation, arbitration is discrete. There are no public filings with the court with respect to the most private matters regarding the parties. Arbitration is informal in that, by agreement, the parties through their counsel can request a suspension of the rules of evidence, resulting in a more efficient manner in which each of the parties can express their issues, instead of the question and answer method of direct and cross-examination required at trial. This frequently provides each of the parties with a sense of “being heard” by the arbitrator.
Arbitration is also conclusive in that the parties cannot appeal of the award of the arbitrator, pursuant to statute. This eliminates the additional timeline of the appellate process experienced in litigation, along with the accompanying professional fees associated with the appeal. Further, arbitration is an expeditious way of obtaining a result compared to the timeline of contested litigation. Frequently, the parties and their counsel can schedule an arbitration in a matter of weeks following the identification of the issue to be arbitrated, rather than the year-plus timeline of litigation. Finally, in arbitration, the parties can identify the arbitrator with a specific skill-set relative to the issue to be arbitrated. For example, if business valuation is an issue, the parties can identify an attorney with knowledge of that issue to arbitrate their matter.
All of the above speak to the economy and efficiency of arbitration, but most importantly to the speed with which the award in arbitration is obtained compared to the litigation timeline. Arbitration is increasingly being viewed by parties in divorce as the preferred dispute resolution mechanism that best provides for transition of the parties through the divorce experience, even if they have a disputed issue.