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Private dispute resolution, sometimes called alternative dispute resolution, is a way for parties to a family law case to resolve their case without going through the full formal process in a California court. For purposes of family court private dispute resolution typically takes two forms: divorce mediation and arbitration.
Divorce Mediation is voluntary and refers to a process by which the parties (with or without attorneys) meet with a mediator, and independent individual, who works with the parties to reach an agreement. The mediator typically has extensive experience in family law, and is often a retired judicial officer.
Divorce Mediation can occur at any point in the court process and, if pursued early in the case, can sometimes avoid an adversarial experience in court. At the beginning of mediation, the parties provide the mediator with information relating to the issue or issues that are disputed, and state what they want out of mediation and why.
Once the mediator has all relevant information from the parties, the mediator can recommend solutions for the parties. A mediator is not bound by the law in the way that a judge is, which allows parties to craft agreements that are custom tailored to their specific circumstances, needs, and desires. If an agreement is reached, the parties may sign that agreement and submit it to the court as their orders or judgment on the issues in dispute.
Another advantage to mediation is that it is private and confidential, allowing the parties to attempt to reach an agreement without fear that their negotiations will be used later without the consent of the participants.
Arbitration is a distinct and separate process from mediation. Arbitration is a procedural alternative to submitting the dispute to a California judge but is more formal than mediation. In arbitration, the parties agree to submit their dispute to an arbitrator pursuant to the rules of arbitration, which act similarly to the California Code of Civil Procedure and other rules applicable to court proceedings.
The parties will select an arbitrator, who will act as the judge in their case. The arbitration process runs more alike the court process, whereby a party will file a request and the other party will respond, and so on. The parties may make procedural and evidentiary arguments, and have the arbitrator rule on them.
After reviewing the arbitration pleadings within the arbitration procedural rules, the arbitrator will issue a decision, which is binding in some cases. As stated earlier, arbitration is a more formal process akin to submitting the dispute to a California court, but has the advantages of typically being faster and keeping the dispute private.
If you are interested in discussing your family law issues and/or the potential for private dispute resolution, contact the Law Offices of Scott Family Law.