The Divorce Arbitration Process in New Jersey

Arbitration is an Alternative Means of Settling Legal Disputes

Mediation GroupCouples in New Jersey can choose to end their marriage in or outside of court, through several different methods.  Although it is recommended that spouses attempt friendly, cooperative methods such as collaborative divorce, sometimes couples find it impossible to reach an agreement on their own.  Such couples who still wish to avoid the stress and expense of a court trial can opt to undergo a process called “divorce arbitration”.  This is a completely confidential process, in which the terms of a divorce are settled by a third-party arbitrator.  It is similar to a court case in that both sides present their cases to the arbitrator, usually through their divorce attorneys.  The issues to be discussed will be agreed upon ahead of time, as well as whether the arbitrator’s decision will be binding or non-binding. 

NJ Courts Fortify the Arbitration Process

With respect to the New Jersey family courts, there is a strong incentive to fortify the arbitration process such that it becomes a true alternative to the judicial process. To serve as a true alternative to the judicial process, the findings of arbitrators within the arbitration process, and the overall outcome of arbitration proceedings, should have binding effect on the parties. Courts will not be relieving their workload by diverting certain cases into arbitration if the findings of arbitrators and arbitration outcomes could routinely be challenged in court.

Arbitration vs. Mediation

It is important to note the difference between a divorce arbitration and divorce mediation.  Both processes involve meeting with an objective third party facilitator outside the courts, but the suggestions of an arbitrator are much more binding than a mediator’s.  This is because the goal of mediation is to help the couple come to an agreement on their own, assisted by the suggestions of the mediator.

On the other hand, an arbitrator listens to arguments from both spouses and comes up with solutions that he or she feels is in their best interests. The arbitrator’s decision is final in the case of binding arbitrations, and will be presented to the court to be finalized as an “arbitration award”.   The arbitration award cannot be appealed unless it can be proven that the arbitrator’s decision was clearly biased against one spouse.  Decisions made in non-binding arbitrations can be appealed, but if the court’s ruling is in line with that of the arbitrator, the appealing spouse will likely be ordered to pay the other spouse’s legal costs in full.

Finding a NJ Divorce Arbitrator

Since arbitration requires you to defer to someone else’s decisions on important issues such as child custody, alimony and equitable division of property, choosing the right divorce arbitrator is essential.  Spouses can find an arbitrator by asking for references from their divorce attorneys, or by using an arbitrator from a reliable source such as the New Jersey Divorce Arbitrator’s Association.  Both spouses should meet with the arbitrator for an initial consultation and ask questions about the person’s experience, approach to arbitration, and a schedule of fees.  An initial consultation can also help you determine if you trust this person enough to make the right decisions concerning you and your family.

No matter which service you choose, it is recommended that you speak to an experienced matrimonial attorney about all your options.  If you and your spouse are on good terms and feel that you can amicably reach an agreement, you may want to try for divorce mediation.  However, couples who cannot get along or disagree over particularly sensitive issues may feel more comfortable deferring to a knowledgeable third party’s decision via arbitration.

Free Consultation with a NJ Divorce Arbitrator

Partner Vincent C. Deluca, Esq. of Villani & DeLuca is a New Jersey Supreme Court certified Matrimonial Attorney, experienced in every aspect of divorce.  He is also one of only five Matrimonial Attorneys on the Roster of Mediators for Economic Aspects of Family Law in Ocean County.  Mr. DeLuca will be happy to answer all your questions about which divorce option is right for you and your family.  Your initial consultation is free, and you are under no obligation to take further action.  Call (732) 965-3350 today to schedule your free consultation with Mr. DeLuca!

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